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October 23, 2015

Film review: Dario Saric’s three-point shooting on target to start season

The Sixers are five days from getting their season underway in Boston, but the Euroleague (the world’s second best basketball league) is already in full swing. That means Dario Saric, the Sixers’ own international man of mystery, and his Anadolu Efes teammates are playing meaningful games.

Efes has a new look this season, and they have started 2-0 with a couple of convincing wins. At first glance, I like what the front office did in the offseason. The offense was humming in the first couple of games, as Efes scored 89 points on both occasions. Remember, Euroleague games only last 40 minutes.

Sixers fans will be happy to hear that Saric is playing well. Through two games, he’s averaging 19.5 minutes, 11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists (1.5 turnovers), 1.5 steals, and 1 ridiculous looking goatee. More importantly, he’s shooting 71 percent from the field and 4-5 from three-point range.

Ridiculously small sample and all, that last part is key. Only a month ago, I wrote this about Saric:

Going forward, his jumper and defense are what interest me most. Saric shot 33 percent from deep combined in the Turkish League and Euroleague last season, and it would really help his stock if he could bump that percentage up a few ticks. More respect from opposing defenses out on the perimeter could open up his playmaking skills.

Having a knock-down shooter at the 4 is a boon to an offense’s spacing. In the Euroleague, where the pick-and-roll is king just like in the NBA, one of the main ways that Saric gets the ball in his hands is directly after a pick-and-roll. Specifically, he lifts up from the weak side of the floor and the point guard quickly reverses the ball to him.

Take this play, for example. Dunston is going to set a high ball screen for the point guard, Thomas Heurtel (who is awesome, by the way). Saric is by himself on the weak side, with two shooters spaced properly on the other side of the floor.

Dario Replace 1

Dunston’s defender shows on Heurtel at the three-point line, which means Dunston is free to roll to the rim. Somebody on the back line has to help, and it’s Saric’s man. It’s only a step or two, but Saric creates some added distance by lifting up to the top of the arc.

Dario Replace 2

Dario Replace 3

Heurtel quickly swings the ball to Saric. The Croatian Sensation isn’t open for more than a split-second, but it’s a clean look if he can take it in rhythm. Saric knocks down the catch-and-shoot three-pointer, a nice play off a simple action. Here is what it looks like on the catch:

Dario Replace 4

Saric drained a couple more jumpers in the game, and take a look what that does for the offense. Here is the same exact scenario later in the game, but the sides are flipped. This time, Saric’s defender sticks with him as he lifts up:

Dario Replace 1A

This gives the roll man, Alex Tyus, a free run to the rim. Efes screws up the alley-oop, but this is two points more times than not:

Dario Replace 1B

It wasn’t just off the ball where Saric has impressed in his first couple of games. In the video below, he reads the defense and makes a couple of correct decisions after setting a high ball screen for Heurtel:

We probably won’t check in on Saric’s every move now that the NBA season is starting, but I’m interested to see more. We'll definitely revist his play as the season progresses.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann