(Do you believe in destiny?)
I'm sure that many of you have heard of 18 year old Dario Saric already. It's way too early to think about the draft especially with the team making the Playoffs this year. But, in my opinion, Wolves management should keep a close eye on Saric because, shockingly, he might be available late in the first round next year and the Wolves could hit a big home run with this rare, underappreciated talent.
There are a number of reasons why I think he would make perfect sense for the Wolves. Most of them are reasonable. However, some of them might either seem absurd to you or sound like indices of a divine plan which started to unfold in a little Spanish town called Linares in 2006. Before I give you all the 'basketball reasons', I would like to tell you a story about me, Dario, Russian point guards and a certain floppy-haired individiual on the Wolves roster. With all the tie-ins and the Minnesotan' twist at the end, It would have been great material for an episode of LOST. If you prefer to skip this because it is long, there's a little scouting report on Dario and a few recent highlight clips below.
I always loved basketball, but I stopped following any ball alltogether for various reasons around 2000. Due to Kirilenko's succes, I became intrigued by basketball again around 2005. However, I was more interested in Russian ball, especially the youth circles. While I watched the NBA occasionally , me and two partners in crime tried to attend nearby higher-quality youth league games and follow international youth competitions, eager to find the first potentially great Russian guard to complement a young AK47.
Two competitions caught our eye in 2006. After a disappointing defeat in the U20 Cup we shifted our attentin to the U16 Euro Championship just a few months later. Our squad played well and went to the final which was played in Linares, Spain. The games were not televised so we had to check the boxscore after each game. So we did after the final. A life-altering moment right there. Why you ask?
This is why.
Of course, I don't have to mention how that game went. You know what Ricky did. You've seen his shot that forced overtime. Sad loss for our team and all, but I was so intrigued by Ricky's performance that I spent the next months looking for any information I could findon him. Online translation was joke back then, and I remember having used Altavista's Babelfish to translate Spanish news stories into Russian with horrendous results.
There wasn't much to be found about Ricky Rubio around 2006/2007. So even though I only saw a few crazy passes on highlight clips, Ricky became my favorite player. In 2008, I rearranged a holiday trip to Germany to make sure that I could see him play against Alba Berlin in the Euroleague. Unfortunatelly, Ricky was injured and didn't play. But hey, at least he was in the building. I think I might have watched him watch the game more than I watched the game myself...
No need to mention that Ricky is special! There was no doubt in my mind that he was the real deal after watching him play in the Olympics. Even after people starter doubting him during his Barcelona stint, I kept annoying people by bragging about how great Ricky would be.
Now back to the present. My favorite player is a Wolf. As well as the best Russian basketball player ever, Andrei Kirilenko, whom I was trying to find a guard. In 2007, I knew I had found the guard. A cocky kid named Alexey who couldn't get off the bench for CSKA. He didn't play much but the potential was obvious. I was shocked to see him go undrafted in 2010. My friend, who can't stand Lyosha and doesn't leave out any opportunity to mock him said if he can't cut it with CSKA, he won't be an option for the NBA and Russia. "You just wait", I said. "One day, he will play in the NBA." Now he's a Wolf. My three favorite euro ballers on the same team. Luck? Destiny? Does it end here?
Let's go back in time again. 2010 certainly was disappointing for Shved, but it was also an up-and-down year for Ricky. He played well in his first year for Barcelona, but his scoring deficiencies became glaringly apparent at the World Championship where he shot 27% from the field and made 2 of 17 three pointers. What Wes Johnson would call a decent shooting month seemed to down Ricky who was partly blamed for Spain's embarrassing result. and labeled a bust prematurely. After all the accolades and Barcelona's ridicolous decision to buy him out, some people just loved seing the Golden Boy finally fall. For the first time in his career, he wasn't a magician no more. After two good shooting seasons in Badalona and Barcelona, his figures wouldn't recover to an average number ever since.
Just a week before the World Championship, a subplot was unraveling at the 2010 U16 Euro Championship. Russia managed to survive the group stage despite terrible guard play and faced Croatia in the Quarterfinals. Croatia played great team ball with no player standing out in the group stage. However, into the K.O. Round, this kid named Dario Saric took over. He scored 34 points and grabbed 9 Rebounds to sink our boys. 24 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists against Spain in the semis. And after the Unicorn, he went on to become the second player to get a triple-double in the final with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Just like Ricky, he was one of the youngest players in the competition too. Same story all over again. A new star was born?*
2012 again. Dario Saric is 18 years old. Three months ago, Croatia won the U-18 European Championship and Saric took MVP honors. In the semifinal, he kicked Russia's ass again while leading his team in points, rebounds and assiststs throughout the tourney. He scored 39 points, grabbed 11 boards and had 5 assists in the final.
Right now, he's not playing basketball because he wants to get out of the inferior Adriatic League and his team won't let him go without a big buyout (sounds familar, huh?). This could be a blessing in disguise though as his stock will automatically drop to late first round if he decides to enter the NBA next year after only playing half a season in the Adriatic. If he goes to Spain, Greece or Russia next year, and decides to enter the draft in 2-3 years, he'll be a lottery pick. But given his contract situation, the crazy ties to Ricky, Russian guards and me, I can't see how he couldn't end up falling into the wolf's lair.
On to my little scouting report...
Here is why it would make sense to have him on the roster:
So many paralells to Ricky:
Man among boys. Absolutely destroyed same-aged competition.
Absolutely destroyed same-aged Russian competition.... -_-
BEST RICKY RUBIO PASS IMPERSONATION EVER!!!! (against Kirilenko no less)
Had a similar winner mentality. Does not shy away from taking his teams on his shoulders for long, long stretches, but doesn't break offensive flow constantly.
He's white -_ -"
Many people doubt him. And I don't understand the aspects that are doubted. (I don't think he'll be a superstar but I would guarantee that he'd be a productive NBA player.)
Second player to emerge from the U-16 Championship with a triple-double in the final, become MVP and find his way into my heart.
Like Ricky, he doesn't rely much on his explosiveness or athletic ability to get into the lane but on good fakes, hesitations and instincts. However, Ricky was able to dominate opponents in his youth years and get to the rim because he actually was phyisically superior to them, quicker, longer and much much craftier. It's way different now and thats a part of his struggle offensively. This shouldn't happen with Dario.
6'10" who has played the 1, 2, 3 and 4 for Croatian youth NT's.
Excellent ballhandler for his size.
Has played in Portland (Hoop Summit)
Can do it all on offense. Be a ballhandler, create for himself and others, hockey passes.
Since he's clearly the best player in these type of competitions, his usage is often iso-heavy. Especially if he is playing against bigger/heavier guy he can shake off. However, his instinct, passing and ballhandling ability as well as his improving decision making seldom break the offense in a way other so-called tweeners do which Minny has/had recently (Beas, D-Will).
His shot hasn't been falling as well as one would like to see, especially if utilized as a three, but his shooting form looks good and he is becoming more assertive with his long range shots.
He won't be able to join the NBA before 2014. If everybody on the team is healthy and D-Will will be traded for a solid 1-2 option, there won't be that many minutes for rooks next year anyway, right?
Everytime Kahn mentions "Dario", he'll be forced to think of signing Darko.
By playing Saric, Adelman could appease the gost of Drazen Petrovic who keeps visiting him, mocking him for the bad shooting of his team.
I see him as COMBO Forward opposed to a Tweener. Still, there are some of the usual deficincies that come from being an in-between. Yet he's very intelligent and knows how to adjust to what defenders give him. In this years final, Lithuania tried to guard him with a physical player and Dario realized immediatly that he could exploit him by luring him out into the perimeter and blowing by him. Unfortunately, his character could be a concern. He was arrested on DUI charges after crashing into a few cars and fleeing the scene. At least he didn't kill nobody. Also, emotions are a big part of his game. But 5 minutes of conversation with Saint Ricky about beautiful colors and rainbows and stuff should excorcize all his demons.
He has shown improved toughness this year but defense is still a concern no doubt. It's hard to tell whether he's just not good at defense or just doesn't care. So far, he seems satisfied with concealing his lacking 1-on-1 defense with blocked shots and rebounding numbers.
The Wolves have three first round draft picks, right? (Their own, MEM, OKC). One of them will go to Phoenix. Another one might be traded. I know I sound a little like Givony here (OMG!!! TALL, CAN SHOOT N DRIBBLEZ!! NR ONE PICK!!). He's young, he has a lot of work to do and he has yet to prove himself in a good European league as well as the Euroleague. But I hope he's on the Wolves radar in case of being projected a late first rounder next year. Wouldn't it be awesome if the Wolves could bring him alongside an aging Kirilenko in two years and get a Lamar Odom type player?
*Actually it was a quadrable double! 12 Turnovaz! Can't beat that, Ricky Rubio, can you...?