Dario Saric has been coveted by the NBA since he was 15. Now he is closer than ever to being an NBA player, and no prospect has a higher offensive ceiling than Saric in this draft.

Croatian Dario Saric has been a wanted man for the last five seasons - wanted in the NBA as a sweet-shooting and scoring big man in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki and Toni Kukoc.

It's a big question of when he will join the NBA. He is 20 years old now, but still has hinted he wants more seasoning in Europe before playing with the big boys in the US. At the moment, Saric is a little light for traditional power forward and just a bit slow for small forward in terms of defense.

But on offense, Saric is a load that very few can stop. He has a high motor and scores very well in transition, passing as well as scoring himself. He also rebounds at a high rate at the other end. If a team can hide his man-on defensive issues, he could be a really great NBA player.

The basics

  • Height: 6'10"
  • Wingspan: 6'10"
  • Weight: 223 pounds
  • 15.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in Adriatic League (5th in PER)
  • Strengths: Very high basketball IQ, shooting, passing, scoring creativity from anywhere, transition, rebounding
  • Weaknesses: not strong in post defense of PFs, might be too slow to defend SFs, might be too slow to defend the pick-and-roll
  • Been a closely watched prospect since he was 15, and still may not come over to the NBA this season without a big buyout

Comparisons

For years, scouts have been trying to compare Saric to another Euro who came over to the NBA to dominate. There are legitimate comparisons to Toni Kukoc, except that Kukoc was much more skilled as a passer/facilitator and had a much longer pedigree when he joined the NBA. Kukoc was drafted in 1990 by the Bulls, but did not come to the NBA until 1993 after the Bulls had won their first three NBA championships. Throughout the 90s, Kukoc won several European Basketball Player of the Year awards.

There are also comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki but the German was much more of a scorer for Wurzburg, putting up 19 and 28 ppg in his last two years (as a 17 and 18 year old). In 1998, Nowitzki scored 33 points on 6-of-12 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds and had 3 steals for the internationals.

So, Saric does not have the track record of either Nowitzki or Kukoc, but he does have many of the same skills - passing, shooting, scoring and very high basketball IQ. Another comp could be Boris Diaw.

Scouting Reports

  • DraftExpress: Despite showing excellent fluidity and coordination for a player his size, its Saric's skill-level, creativity and feel that makes him unique, and not amazing athleticism. His basketball IQ is simply off the charts, as his knowledge and understanding of the game is extraordinary relative to his age. The place where that's most visible is in his passing ability, as he does a great job of seeing the floor and making teammates better, aided greatly by the outstanding vantage point he enjoys at his size. He played almost exclusively at power forward the past two seasons, and even if he's gotten stronger, it will be difficult for him to match up inside the paint with some of the stronger players he'll encounter at that position in the NBA. Opposing players shot 49% from the field against Saric in post-up situations this season according to Synergy Sports Technology.Role and fit are arguably as important for Saric as any player in this draft. Having a coach that is willing to put the ball in his hands and utilize his many strengths will be a huge key, as its unlikely that he'll be happy playing exclusively off the ball, where his shortcomings as a perimeter defender and shooter will become even more glaring. A fiery competitor, Saric's body language already leaves something to be desired at times (he's quick to point fingers at teammates or complain), so there's always the risk that he could simply get up and go back to Europe if he isn't happy with his situation.
  • NBADraft.net: At 6'10 it is very hard to find anyone in the world with the skills he possesses to play with or without the ball anywhere on the court. Saric would have a much better NBA outlook if not for his lack of foot speed and athleticism ... His quickness and elevation might be enough to finish in Europe, but without the ability to finish above the rim, things will likely prove more difficult for him in the NBA.
  • NBADraftInsider.com: Physically Saric has the size to play either the three or the four at 6-10 223 lbs. He needs to add considerable strength to play the four consistently at the next level. With his deceptive speed, ball-handling, and shooting he creates match-up difficulties for traditional fours that play more in the paint with strength and size.

Suns Draft Potential

Could Saric be a guy the Suns target to play combo forward? His ceiling is higher than Marcus Morris, and he could be an unstoppable facilitator from the small forward position.

But Saric is not a pure two-way player, even though he rebounds well. GM McDonough likes two-way players, though he was part of the front office that drafted Jared Sullinger in 2012. Sullinger was also known as a scorer and rebounder without the quick feet to defend at a high level.

Maybe Saric's incredible scoring and facilitating ability will far outweigh his deficiencies on D.

Video Profile - DraftExpress

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Today's Suns workout was headlined by power forward Jarnell Stokes from Tennessee, along with point guard Aaron Craft, a four-year started from Ohio State.

Today, the Phoenix Suns worked out a group of mostly free-agent hopefuls, headlined by Jarnell Stokes (PF, Tennessee) who has the potential to be a late first round to early second round pick.

Stokes is a powerful, rebounding machine from Tennessee.  He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season.  He is also a respectable shot blocker with an ability to bang down low on offense and challenge the opponent in the low post on both ends of the floor.  He already possesses an NBA body and the strength to go with it, and has also proven himself to be an underrated passer for a big man as well.  His combine performance was also a bonus, as he measured in with a 7'1" wingspan and a 36" vertical...which is impressive for a guy with his size.  His lateral agility was not as impressive, but it will have limited effect on his defensive ability in the low post where he is at his best.

The other notable name on the list is Aaron Craft, a four-year starting point guard for Ohio St., who has been listed anywhere from the second round to undrafted in various mocks.  Craft is known for his defensive ability and also his high b-ball I.Q.. He averaged approximately 10 points and 5 assists per game his senior year, and was named Big-Ten defensive player of the year.  The obvious knock on Craft is his lack of ability as a shooter, and his average athleticism.  But before you start getting flash-backs of Kendall Marshall, know that Craft is a very adept and craft-y (pun intended) scorer near the basket, and is able to use his quickness and agility to beat his man of the dribble.

One of the lesser known prospects that I personally like a lot is Casey Prather, a super-athletic, explosive small forward who progressed each season at Florida.  His senior year, he averaged nearly 14 points along with 5 rebounds per game.  Although he's undersized at only 6'5", he has a 6'9" wingspan  and a 37.5" vertical to help make up for it. He isn't a great shooter, shooting only 33% from the college three, but he has the ability to score from inside the arc and loves to get to the rim.  Prather has also shown the ability to be a very good defender, using his length and athleticism to shut the opponents down on the perimeter.  Although he probably won't be drafted, he could be a very solid pick up for the right team.

Here's a breakdown of the full list of prospects in attendance today, below:

Prospect Profiles:

As for the workout portion, once again the three-minute full-court sprint drill was all the media was able to see.  For what it's worth, Aaron Craft showed off his tremendous condition by easily beating the other prospects in the drill, and although I lost count, the coaches reported that he tied the record for the number of laps so far...I'm not sure if that includes Archie Goodwin or not.

Speaking of Archie, during the media session interviews, Goodwin was once again working on his three-point shooting and having fun with the staff while he was at it.  After competing against Coach Hornacek yesterday, Goodwin was feeling even more confident this afternoon exclaiming "I'll beat anybody today!  Who else wants some?  Where's Steph Curry at?  Bring him out!"

Goodwin was clearly joking around and just having fun...but you can also see his confidence growing, and he has certainly built a great relationship with the staff.  Good stuff.

Interviews

Ryan McDonough

On Jarnell Stokes

"Jarnell Stokes is an interesting player...He's a physical specimen, maybe the strongest guy we've had in here.  He weighed 270 today.  He has very good hands and feet for his size.  Very productive rebounder.  I think there's a lot of room for growth there.  He's a junior, but really by his age he's a sophomore even a freshman...he just turned 20 earlier this year.  He showed  pretty good touch from the mid-range...He had a good work out for us today."

On Aaron Craft

"He's excelled at pretty much everything his whole life...on the court off the court, he's a winner.  His defense stands out, his ability to run a team and get guys in the right spots stands out.  He's in terrific shape, I think he tied our high in the conditioning drill.  It looked like he could have kept going another three minutes if he wanted to.  We place a value on winning...and that's what he's done his whole life."


Jeff Hornacek

On relating to the less-heralded players

"I think every coach kind of looks at guys maybe how they were as a player.  I hear a lot of times they're saying this guy isn’t that fast or he isn’t that quick, and then I think that was kind of like me, and I made it.  You try to look past some of those things...and look at their determination."

On Aaron Craft as a winner

"You have to give a lot credit and look at that part of the game.  Certain guys, it’s like what is he going to do when he comes into the league? A lot of guys they get their NBA status and their money, and then they just play basketball. A kid like him, it’s not going to matter how much money he makes, he’s going to compete. He’s going to do the little things to try and help a team win. Again, you can’t have enough of those guys."


Aaron Craft

On his strengths and characteristics

"I think I'm one of the more competitive guys out there...I'm going to do what it takes to win, offensively, defensively, whatever it takes.  I think there's a lot of stuff behind the scenes too that people don't get to see, stuff in the offseason, before and after practice, those types of things that I know I do...that's just who I am"

On whether or not his game translates to the NBA

"I think so, absolutely.  A lot of guys that come before me have done similar things, and I think I can do the same"

On four-year college experience

"I think it helps.  I think any type of experience, like at Ohio St. playing with some of the best players in the country, playing in big games, and big atmospheres, I think that helps a lot."

Jarnell Stokes

On conditioning and performance

"I'm a little behind right now...I had to take a week off running after I got in a car accident on the way to the airport.  I'm just trying to work my way back into shape.  I think I did ok (in the three-minute drill), I heard my number was 24 (laps), but compared to guys like Aaron craft it didn't look that good.  I think I shot the ball pretty well, I gave all I could give, but it was a pretty tough workout."

On being a traditional vs. stretch four

"I'm just a basketball player, whatever the coach wants me to do.  I shot the ball very well, so I feel I can extend my range out to the three-point line in due time.  But right now I'm more of a (traditional) power forward."

On shooting range

"Right now I'm very confident from the college three.  I'm shooting the ball very well at the college three.  I think the biggest thing will be from the (NBA) three point line, being able to hit that shot.  But as of right now I'm not too worried about it."

Another workout coming tomorrow...stay tuned.

PHOENIX — His cheeks were flushed and his cough was quite noticeable. Just modest rewards for yet another well-crafted victory. Minutes earlier, the former Ohio State guard told any coach...

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