Croatian big man Dario Saric has just completed an impressive and successful stint for his national team, with the recent free agent signing offering a showcase of what he could provide the Golden State Warriors next season.
Saric led his team to a 5-0 record at the FIBA Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turkey, playing a key role in Croatia’s progression through to the next stage. But more importantly for Warrior fans, the 29-year-old’s impressive form could have given some indication to his potential value for Golden State in 2023-24.
The Golden State Warriors will be aiming to utilize Dario Saric in a way none of his previous four NBA teams have been able to do so.
While his recent performances for Croatia have been exciting, there’s a distinct difference between Saric the FIBA player and Saric the NBA player. That’s understandable — he’s one of Croatia’s best players and the usage and volume sees a sharp spike as a result.
Yet at NBA level, Saric has been pigeonholed as a bit-part role player of sorts, at least since his earlier years on lottery bound teams in Philadelphia, Minnesota and at the start of his tenure in Phoenix.
There’s more to Saric than what’s been seen over recent NBA seasons, although some of that has to be attributed to the devastating ACL injury he suffered during the 2021 NBA Finals. That might change with Golden State though, with Saric joining an offensive system where his skillset may have more opportunity to shine.
Saric isn’t your typical big man, rather he has that distinctive European element of being able to put the ball on the floor and find teammates with pinpoint passes. However, unless your Nikola Jokic, some of those aspects can be suppressed playing alongside the plethora of star guards and wings we see in today’s NBA.
Some of Saric’s passing in the Pre-Olympic Qualifying Tournament was mesmerizing, and it’s his ability to do it from everywhere on the floor that’s most impressive. He can push the ball in transition and find rim-runners, throw lobs to teammates coming from the weak side, find cutters and shooters from a standstill position above the perimeter, or do so from a post-up position.
Saric has it all from a playmaking perspective and he finished the tournament averaging 5.6 assists across the course of the five games. So why, at NBA level, has he never managed to average more than 2.6 assists over an entire season?
Again, it comes down to playing more of an off-ball role. No one is suggesting Saric is about to become a primary offensive facilitator for the Warriors, but the prospects of him averaging a career-high in assists next season are incredibly high.
Golden State have made an art form of utilizing Draymond Green’s passing over the last decade. His connection with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is unparalleled, whether it’s finding them cutting to the basket from the top of the perimeter, dribble handoffs into wide-open threes, or split action from the post.
While Saric may not have the same chemistry, there’s no reason why he can’t be utilized in similar fashion. This is all before we get to his threat as a three-point shooter where he knocked down 39.1% last season. The eight-year NBA veteran has never played with the sort of spacing threat that Curry and Thompson provide, meaning a move into the 40% range from deep is a more than realistic ambition.
One more point to monitor — how much will Saric play with Chris Paul next season? While the two have chemistry from their time in Phoenix, the former may yield better results playing alongside Curry and Thompson in a Warrior-style of offense rather than the pick-and-roll nature of Paul. Either way, it’s certainly an element to focus upon in preseason ahead of Golden State’s opener against the Suns on October 24.