Dario Saric

Saric showcases Warriors value, leads Croatia closer to Olympics

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Dario Šarić wasn’t the first player the Warriors signed once NBA free agency began this summer. Draymond Green was, agreeing to his four-year, $100 million contract to remain in a Golden State jersey for the foreseeable future.

Šarić’s signing came after general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr. already had pulled off his first blockbuster move in trading Jordan Poole to the Washington Wizards as part of a deal that brought Chris Paul to the Bay, and later inked Paul’s backup, veteran point guard Cory Joseph, to a one-year contract. The Warriors and Šarić didn’t agree to terms until more than a week into free agency. 

But the veteran big man this summer in the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament showcased why he was at the very top of the Warriors’ free-agency big board, and why having him on a one-year veteran minimum contract should be a steal in Dunleavy’s first season as GM.

The 29-year-old led Croatia on Sunday to a stunning 13-point win over host team Turkey in the 2024 Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament behind a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double. The win secured a spot in the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament, putting Croatia one step closer to Paris. 

He used his 6-foot-9 frame to get to the basket, hit 3-pointers off screens and catch-and-shoot, and looked like a perfect fit for Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s system. 

Look at how Šarić moves without the ball. He isn't a stationary scorer. Šarić isn’t going to blind defenders with quickness -- though he did beat his defender off the dribble multiple times Sunday -- but more than two years removed from sustaining a torn ACL in Game 1 of the 2021 NBA Finals, he’s moving all over the court knowing he had to be a top scorer to take down Turkey. 

Now think about that first three shown in the second quarter to put Croatia up by 15. Saric prefers to pup as opposed to being a strong roller on screens. That certainly fits Kerr and the roster, and Jonathan Kuminga can be a curveball who packs more of a punch coming off screens. Chris Paul and Šarić played a ton of two-man game when they were members of the Phoenix Suns’ Western Conference champion team in 2020-21. 

The duo found plenty of success as a pick-and-pop combination and pick-and-drive. 

Šarić in Sunday’s final made four threes on 4-of-9 shooting. He made at least one 3-pointer in all five games of the tournament and made multiple threes in three of the five games. Šarić overall shot 43.5 percent from deep on 10-of-23 shooting. The Warriors were missing a consistent stretch big in the fashion of Otto Porter Jr. last season, and Šarić seems to fit the bill. 

Over 57 games between the Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder last season, Šarić shot 39.1 percent beyond the arc, the second-best mark of his six-year career. JaMychal Green, who Šarić essentially is replacing, was slightly worse at 37.8 percent, and Šarić is a more dynamic 3-point shooter. The Warriors’ six big men – JaMychal Green, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Jonathan Kuminga, James Wiseman and Patrick Baldwin Jr. – combined to shoot 35.6 percent (169 of 475) on threes last season. 

Though Šarić’s double-double in the final was his most important, it wasn’t his only of the tournament. While he did so with points and rebounds against Turkey, Šarić had a 13-point, 12-assist double-double against the Netherlands where he also had six rebounds and three rebounds. His passing shined on the run in the open court, finding cutters in the half-court and being incredibly crafty around the rim. 

Dunleavy’s roster construction is keen on cutting down turnovers and keeping the Warriors’ ball-movement offense in flow. Šarić in five games dished 28 assists and only turned the ball over four times, accumulating a 7-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, a welcome sight for Kerr. 

Paul is the offseason name that rightfully will garner the majority of Warriors headlines. Šarić’s signing won’t rank too far behind in importance. He just averaged 15.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals per game in winning fashion, shooting 55.8 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from long range and 73.3 percent at the free-throw line, looking like an ideal Warrior in every sense possible.

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