Dario Saric may not have been the biggest name on this year’s free agent market, afterall he was signed for nothing more than the veteran minimum. However, there’s a distinct reason fans were left elated when he eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors.
For years Steve Kerr’s best playoff lineup has required a glue-guy as the fifth player surrounding a core four. It begun when Andre Iguodala replaced Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup for Game 4 of the 2015 NBA Finals, with the now 39-year-old having won Finals MVP as a result.
Dario Saric was the Golden State Warriors’ best obtainable target at securing a connecting glue-guy, making his signing all the more important in free agency.
Iguodala continued in the role alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as well as Harrison Barnes and then Kevin Durant. Iguodala’s two-way ability was the perfect compliment, ensuring a plethora of success with three championships in four years.
In 2022, with an aging Iguodala stapled to the bench, it was Otto Porter Jr. who took the mantle, starting in the final three games of the Finals as Golden State recovered from a 2-1 deficit to win the title in six against the Boston Celtics.
With Porter leaving for the Toronto Raptors last offseason, the Warriors failed to find that next glue-guy to connect their best five-man unit. They tried to — bringing in JaMychal Green and re-signing Iguodala for one last hurrah.
See for how good Kevon Looney is, the lack of spacing with he and Draymond Green on the floor becomes difficult to contend with come playoff time. Kerr also acknowledges the need to maintain defensive versatility, which is why a three-guard lineup with Jordan Poole was never a sustainable option.
Despite an inconsistent regular season, Kerr’s desire for the missing piece ultimately led him to starting JaMychal Green for two games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second-round of the playoffs. After that proved futile, Gary Payton II was the next option in Kerr’s kitbag.
There was never that perfect option though, with the Warriors going down in six games. Now, the signing of Saric gives Golden State another option as a possible connector — someone who can provide the floor spacing and size, while also possessing the Warrior-style passing and feel that JaMychal Green never could.
That’s not to say Saric will be a part of closing lineups on a regular basis, but at least he presents as someone more capable of filling the role. The franchise also flipped Poole for Chris Paul who, despite being 38-years-old, has the defensive instincts to make a three-guard lineup more tenable.
You also can’t discount Warrior youngsters Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. The latter played down the stretch of the crucial Game 4 against the Lakers, earning the trust of Steve Kerr in what should be built upon next season. Kuminga is prodigiously talented, someone that may become another flat out weapon more so than simple glue-guy.
In Saric and Paul, and with the expected further development of Kuminga and Moody, Golden State have options when it comes to finding their most effective unit come playoff time. Of course, any success will again be predicated on Curry, Green, Thompson and Andrew Wiggins, but there’s optimism to suggest their jobs are about to become a whole lot easier.