Amongst all the turmoil that was the end of the Philadelphia 76ers’ season, it was easy to forget for a second just how well the team is set up to jump-start its rebuild next season. They could potentially have up to four first-round picks, with two of them just maybe coming in the top five. That’s fantastic! Players like Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn and others are waiting to become the new generation of Sixers who actually might play meaningful games.
Sure, the inconvenient truth is that they’ve had pick bounties like this before, only to have cruel twists of lottery fate like missing out on Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but one of those gathered assets isn’t a waste quite yet — Dario Saric, the 10th pick in the 2014 Draft, who has played in Turkey the last two years. Earlier this season, he promised to come to Philadelphia next year to join what could be an all-time infusion of talent. The problem is, to do so would mean opting out of tons of money.
Saric is two years out of being drafted, and if he comes over now he’d still have to sign a rookie scale contract, which would lock him into team control for at least four years with restricted free agency to follow. If he waits one more year like Nikola Mirotic did, he could negotiate with the Sixers as a free agent (though they’d still have exclusive rights to him) and hit unrestricted free agency after that first contract. Those are two wildly different trajectories, one of which would pay him a whole lot more money.
One thing to keep in mind: If Saric takes the rookie deal and plays like a superstar, whatever maximum deal he could sign would arrive sooner, meaning he would start making superstar money earlier in his NBA career. Unless he’s both a gambler and an amazingly farsighted individual however, that’s probably not on his mind. If he does come over, it’s for a different reason — and he gave it when he promised to come over for the 2016-17 season.
“I’m always in touch with the people of Philadelphia, I always talk with GM Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown,” Saric said. “We talk about a lot of things that have to do with me and the 76ers. Before I was drafted, I promised to Efes that I will come here for two years and of course I promised to Philadelphia that after these period of time, I will go to them. It is a certain procedure that I feel I have to pass through.”
This was only a few months ago, so hopefully Dario was already aware of the implications of staying an extra year when he made the statement above. Honestly, it reads like a guy who has a sense of duty and obligation, which are powerful motivators for certain people. Alternatively, he could simply feel ready to compete at the highest level in the sport. It’s not necessarily about the money, is what we’re saying.
Of course, Saric committing to the Sixers for next season would raise more questions. He’d be a 6-foot-10 power forward on a team where the only players with pedigrees already play in the frontcourt and have the key advantage of NBA experience. If he does come next year, he might be signing up to make less money than he possibly could have and ride the bench.
If the Sixers want him in Philly next season (and they should), they might feel pressured to trade one of Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor to make room (and honestly, they probably don’t have a future on the court together anyway). What such a trade could look like is a discussion for another day, but new GM Bryan Colangelo has a hell of a lot of moving pieces to deal with this offseason.