On the Beat: Sixers Keeping Tabs on Saric, Embiid
The two players that the 76ers acquired in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft have yet to suit up for the team. They both, however, appear to be on positive paths towards possibly joining the Sixers at some point in the future, according to President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Sam Hinkie.
While Joel Embiid has spent the better part of the past five and a half months rehabbing from off-season right foot surgery, Dario Saric, by contrast, has been playing professional basketball on a regular basis, appearing in 28 games for Turkish Basketball Super League affiliate Anadolu Efes.
The Sixers traded for the rights to Saric, who was chosen 12th by the Orlando Magic in 2014, on the night of that year’s draft. He has shown signs of offensive improvement in his second season with Efes, currently the top team in the Turkish BSL, and the league’s most decorated club. His scoring rate is higher now than it was a season ago, as he’s averaged 10.5 points in 21.5 minutes per game. Furthermore, Saric is shooting more effectively, converting 48.9 percent of his field goal attempts and 36.8 percent of his three-point field goal tries. Both figures represent steps forward from the previous season.
“We’re in frequent contact with him,” Hinkie revealed on Tuesday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “He’s doing really well for Efes this year. He’s having a great season. He’s continued to shoot it really well. Maybe 48 hours go by without one of us talking to him, not 72. We spend a lot of time paying attention to his development because he’s important to us, and because we care about him and he knows that. When the time is right, I’m sure he’ll make whatever’s the best decision for him.”
Saric has been used both off the bench, and as a starter, as was the case in his most recent outing on Monday, when he posted seven points, five rebounds, and one block in Anadolu Efes’ 33-point win over Turkish BSL foe Torku Konyaspor. Sarich has reached double-figures in scoring 17 times this season, and generated three double-doubles. He’s also tallying nearly 2.0 assists per game.
“He’s done really well this year and he’s gifted,” Hinkie continued. “He can put it on the floor, he can defensive rebound, he can bring it up in transition. When his day comes, he’ll have a lot of transition to the NBA that he’ll have to focus on. But shooting is definitely a part of what he’s been focused on and what he’s already improved on.”
Saric is a native of Croatia, and will turn 22 years old this April.
In addition to Saric, the Sixers picked up another international prospect in the opening round of the 2014 NBA Draft by grabbing Joel Embiid with the third overall selection. Embiid has battled issues with the navicular bone in his right foot since turning pro. Hinkie provided an optimistic prognosis.
“He’s doing great in his rehab and he’s doing great in his work to get back,” said Hinkie. Embiid has been spotted on the hardwood more frequently over the past month and a half, going through an assortment of basic individual drills before games and after practices.
“We will take him when he’s ready, which we anticipate will be next season.”
Embiid generated 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in just 23.1 minutes per game during his 2013-2014 freshman campaign for Kansas.