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Is it time to worry about Dario Saric?

Dario Saric has underperformed in the opening eight games, shooting 34.9 percent from the field and 23.4 percent from deep. Should the Philadelphia 76ers be worried?

When rumors swirled about Markelle Fultz getting a starting role, many speculated he would take Dario Saric’s spot. J.J. Redick wound up as the odd man out, and Saric stayed in the first five. Fultz’s struggles aside, Saric has not been anywhere near his normal self. Most notably, his jump shot has been off the mark.

Saric not making a high percentage of shots is putting more pressure on Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick to shoulder the load. He is off to an uncharacteristic start, but there are two reasons I would attribute to his sluggish start.

FIBA

As nearly every Philadelphia 76ers fan is aware, Dario Saric is a Croatian native. Croatia is a nation with deep basketball roots and tradition. Saric appeared in four games for Croatia during the 2018 European Qualifiers.

Four games may not seems like much, but Saric logged 126 minutes. Knowing his style of play, he was probably banging bodies and diving on the floor as he always does. Much of his summer was devoted to training and competing with Croatia. Fatigue seems to be an issue.

Saric never had a picture perfect arc on his shot, but it’s been looking especially flat lately. Saric went from competing for Croatia in the middle of September, to reporting to training camp in less than a week.

Saric has played five games for the Sixers, but it looks like his 28th of the season. His legs look dead. The attempts from long-range are missing short. The hustle he is famous for seems fewer and farther between than it should be.

Reducing Saric’s playing time may need to be taken into consideration. Although the sample size is small, his current average of 31 minutes per game is a career high. Giving him a night off may need to be an option. It lets him rest, clears his mind, and give Mike Muscala a chance to improve on his already solid production.

Muscala is averaging 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 17 minutes per game. Muscala has also been efficient. He’s shooting 54 percent overall and nearly 39 percent from downtown. His quality offensive play has been coupled by reliable defense.  At this point in time, the Sixers have nothing to lose by reducing the playing time of Dario Saric, especially if its in favor of Mike Muscala.

Offensive Spacing

A few things jump out from the shot selection of Dario Saric.

  1. This looks like a resume you would hand to Daryl Morey. Threes and close-range shots.
  2. Is he allergic to the left corner?
  3. The Sixers’ offensive spacing is brutal.

Shot attempts from 3-16 feet account for 47.1 percent of Joel Embiid’s field goal attempts. He is an elite post scorer. It is where he is most effective. In an effort to get Dario Saric out of his horrible shooting stretch, I want to see the Sixers put Saric around the foul line more often. Embiid lining up beyond the arc will open up action near the basket.

Saric operating from that area highlights two of his best offensive skills. Passing and craftiness. Saric is the best passer on the team not named Ben Simmons. Spacing around Saric would give him the room to wheel and deal for scoring chances.

Saric as an oddly effective post game. He blends drives with floaters and scoop shots to get decent looks.  Currently, the three point shooting is clearly an issue. I don’t like long two’s very much, but Saric needs to focus on scoring points, no matter where they come from. Putting him in positions to facilitate the offense could be best for him and the team.

Two of the four five-man lineups Dario Saric has appeared with this season are; 2. Covington, Embiid, Fultz, and Simmons and 4. Covington, Simmons, Johnson, Redick. When Saric isn’t a threat from distance, it lets defenses collapse on the inside scorers like Embiid and Simmons.

Complain about Brett Brown’s rotations and Markelle Fultz all you want, but Dario Saric needs to play well for the Sixers to start clicking on offense.

Is it time to worry about Saric? I think not. He is too talented to keep this up.

Next: 5 things Brett Brown must change for Sixers

But does he need to figure it out as quickly as he can ? Yes. Yes. Yes and yes.



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