Personally, I remain skeptical that Dario Saric will be in a Sixers uniform for the 2016-17 season even with the latest reported tidbit that he has told his teammates in Turkey that he intends to come to the NBA this summer.
I can’t get past how financially insane it would be for Saric, who signed with Anadolu Efes before the 2014 NBA Draft to avoid the constrictions of the rookie salary cap, to then surrender the benefit one year before he would be able to negotiate with the Sixers as a free agent operating with a much bigger salary cap.
You have to believe that the people representing Saric understand how the new NBA television contract will skyrocket the cap and mean more money across the board for all free agents.
Saric had seemed to use his status as a European prospect to pull a move similar to what LeBron James did by signing a short-term deal with Cleveland that left him a player option to again become a free agent once the new TV money was in play.
Why abandon that plan now when the pot of gold is just one more rainbow away?
If Saric comes over for 2016-17, it will be under the terms of his rookie scale as the 12th pick in 2014. His contract with the Sixers will be $1.97 million. He would then be locked into a team-option for 2017-18 (around $2.7 million) and the subject to a qualifying offer in 2018-19 (about $3.7 million).
If the Sixers gave the qualifying offer, then Saric would only be a restricted free agent in 2019-20 – giving the Sixers the right to match any offer and keep him.
That’s not bad money.
In comparison, however, by waiting out his full rookie scale playing in Europe for three years, Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic negotiated a 3-year deal worth $16.6 million last summer.
After next season, when he’ll make $5.7 million, Mirotic will be an unrestricted free agent for 2017-18 – which usually leads to the mega-jackpot second contract.
Mirotic was the 23rd pick in the 2011 Draft.
Saric is considered a better prospect so it stands to reason that if he stays in Europe one more season, where he is being paid well, he could negotiate an initial three-year free-agent deal worth considerably more than Mirotic’s and then become a 25-year-old unrestricted free agent going into the 2020-21 season.
Given the expected growth in the salary cap over the next two seasons (projected at $108 million for 2017-18), it is not unreasonable to envision Saric costing himself around $15 million in guaranteed money and unrestricted free agency by coming to the Sixers this season instead of waiting one more year in Europe and then negotiating on his own terms.
I don’t know Saric and perhaps the desire to prove himself against the best players in the world right now is worth millions of dollars and unrestricted free agency to him.
I won’t believe it until a signed contract is announced, but if Saric does come to South Philly in 2016-17, it will be the first bit of good luck since “The Process” began.
From not being able to draft Andrew Wiggins, to Joel Embiid breaking his foot, to Michael Carter-Williams regressing and being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, to Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder conditional picks not conveying in 2015, to Embiid hurting his foot again, to not being able to draft D’Angelo Russell, to Nerlens Noel and rookie Jahlil Okafor not being able to coexist on the court, to Sam Hinkie throwing a hissy-fit and resigning as general manager, the Sixers have not had much go as planned.
If Saric does indeed leave Europe now, it might be a sign that the basketball gods have lifted the negative chi surrounding the Sixers for dismissing all virtues of athletic competition by trying to game the system with never-seen levels of deliberate tanking.
Who knows yet if Saric can succeed in the NBA, but he was a legitimate top 5 prospect in 2014 that fell only because he signed in Turkey before the draft.
On a squad woefully devoid of talent, adding a quality player – even one who is another 6-10 power forward – can only help.
Saric is said to have improved each season in Turkey and has an offensive game that should translate to the NBA as a multi-dimensional four. Defense, no surprise for the Sixers, is considered a question mark.
Again, however, this could be about a change in karma with new President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo having promised to do things to make the Sixers more competitive and respectable.
If Saric is committed to coming over, perhaps that will lead to the Sixers finally winning the lottery and the Los Angeles Lakers slipping to No. 4 so the pick transfers to the Sixers and the late first-round picks from Miami and OKC turning up diamonds in the rough and then another quality player coming through free agency or trade.