Could Saric Head to NBA This Season?
With two top-10 picks in this past summer’s draft, it looked as though the Philadelphia 76ers would end up with enough young talent to start turning things around, but instead of drafting, say, Dante Exum and Doug McDermott, players who could have helped immediately, Sixers GM Sam Hinkie went with an injured Joel Embiid and Euro star Dario Saric, who signed a new two-year contract with Turkish club Anadolu Efes days before the 2014 NBA Draft, essentially preventing him from playing in the NBA the next couple of seasons.
That plan hasn’t changed, despite recent rumblings that Saric already is unhappy playing in Turkey.
Saric’s father, Pedrag Saric, recently told a Croatian newspaper that his son was unhappy with his minutes. Having just been made a lottery pick and having been one of Euroleague’s biggest rising stars the last few years, it would make sense that Saric probably isn’t thrilled about riding the pine.
That article got some people jumping to conclusions earlier in the week that Saric may find a way to get out of his contract and make his way to the Philadelphia roster sooner than expected. As in this year. There are, however, a number of reasons why this isn’t likely to happen.
The most obvious of those reasons is money. The Excluded International Player Payment Amount for the current NBA season is $600,000, which won’t come anywhere close to buying out Saric’s contract. Since Philadelphia can only pay so much and the rest of the financial onus is on the Saric family, it seems doubtful that a little scuffle over playing time two games into the season is going to provide enough motivation to pay out eight figures to walk away.
Also, Saric’s father has gone on record several times in saying he doesn’t believe his son is quite ready for the NBA. While scouts disagree, it’s clear that the elder Saric has quite a bit of influence in his son’s life, and that opinion was a big reason Dario signed the deal in Turkey days before having the opportunity to play in the U.S. without the burden of a buyout.
For what it’s worth, it was Pedrag Saric who made the comments to the press about Dario’s unhappiness, not Dario himself, interestingly enough. Not that the information isn’t true, just that the player himself hasn’t said it yet.
Even if he is unhappy, there’s still the issue of what the 76ers want, which is to be as horrible as possible this season in an attempt to “earn” even more high draft picks this coming summer. Saric would be an older, more seasoned player than most rookies and could, by himself, be worth several wins. As we saw last year as the Sixers and the Bucks duked it out for the worst record in the league, those 3-5 wins can be the difference between boasting the best lottery odds and the second-best lottery odds.
They drafted Saric and Embiid, in other words, because they knew they wouldn’t play right away, so bringing Saric over this year is at odds with that game plan. It’s the same reason that, no matter how healthy, Embiid probably won’t play this year. It’s the same reason that Nerlens Noel didn’t play last year, despite his own relative health.
And keep in mind that the amount of money Philadelphia can spend this summer for a buyout is only $625,000. With one more guaranteed year on his Turkish contract, Saric may not have much leverage in getting out of the deal. Sixers fans may have to wait until 2016 to get this kid, but that’s always been the play. Nothing has really changed there.
The best bet for Saric at this point is to play so well that his new team can’t stomach benching him. There’s plenty of time to work it out with his new coaching staff, and it’s also worth noting that his father’s quotes make Dario look like a big baby, but he’s not. It has all been blown out of proportion, with the bottom line being that Saric is still a ways away from making his NBA debut.
Embiid’s Brother Passes Away
Arthur Embiid, the younger brother of Sixers rookie Joel Embiid, passed away on Thursday, according to Bob Coone of the Philadelphia Daily News.
There haven’t been a lot of details released about what exactly happened, including the cause of death, but Arthur, one of Joel Embiid’s two younger siblings, was still living with his family in Cameroon when it happened.
Embiid’s agent said that the young player is “devastated,” according to ESPN.com, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of these things.
“It’s definitely a tough situation, and my prayers go out to [Embiid] and his family,” teammate Tony Wroten told Coone. “It’s tough to lose anybody, especially somebody as close as your brother. I can only imagine what he’s going through. We will definitely keep him in our prayers.”
Embiid did not play in Thursday night’s exhibition game, nor did fellow Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute. Head coach Brett Brown and GM Sam Hinkie both also skipped the game to be with Embiid at his home in Philadelphia.
It’s a sad thing for a young man to go through, so for those readers that pray, keep the guy in your prayers. For those that don’t, send some good vibrations Embiid’s way this weekend. We here at Basketball Insiders offer sincere condolences to one of the most likeable kids in the league.
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