Teams choosing in the mid- to late- lottery of Thursday night’s NBA Draft were just dealt a sizable blow. According to ESPN, Croation forward and likely top 10 pick Dario Saric has signed a contract overseas that will keep him from playing in the league for at least two years.
The report is courtesy of ESPN’s Chad Ford. A source close to Saric says that the 20 year-old star has signed a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes of Turkey. The contract, which Saric is expected to sign within the day, will reportedly carry a player option for its third year. It’s unknown at this point how much this news will affect Saric on draft night, Ford says.
NBA sources say that Saric’s decision to stay in Europe will affect his draft stock. He was getting looks as high as the 76ers at 10, the Nuggets at 11 and the Magic at 12. However, because he’s unlikely to come to the NBA for at least two years, those teams are now hesitating to draft him that high.
However, it’s possible that Saric won’t slide too far. Sources say the Hawks at 15, the Celtics at 17, the Suns at 18 and the Bulls at 19 are all looking at Saric and are more comfortable drafting him and keeping him in Europe for the next two seasons. The Celtics, Suns and Bulls all have multiple picks in this year’s draft.
There’s been doubt about Saric’s NBA arrival since he pulled out of last year’s draft and it became widely known that his father preferred he continue to develop in Europe. A MVP regular season and playoff performance for Croatia’s Cebona in the Adriatic League accelerated that process, though, as Saric became one of the hottest names of the 2014 draft. The 6-10 Saric averaged 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for Cebona last season, showing off the guard-like skills that had many calling him the most versatile player in this draft class.
His decision to stay in Europe is unfortunate for teams in the lottery, but a major boon for those just outside of it. Nabbing a player of Saric’s caliber with a pick in the late teens is exceedingly rare; this news means teams choosing at that point in the draft could have the opportunity to grab a top-tier talent.
League rules state that players who haven’t signed rookie contracts after three years are able to negotiate a new deal outside the rookie scale whenever they choose to come stateside. That’s important given the length of Saric’s contract with Anadolu Efes.
Will a patient team like the Sixers or Magic be brave enough to take Saric in the lottery? Or will he fall to the middle of the first round? This is yet another wrinkle in an already crazy draft season.
Would you take Saric in the lottery?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.