While the top of Thursday's 2014 NBA draft has been thrown into upheaval by Joel Embiid's foot injury, we might now be seeing a similar shift at the bottom of the lottery, thanks to news that one of the draft's top international prospects has reached a deal that will likely keep him overseas for the next couple of seasons.
Croatian forward Dario Saric has agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes, according to ESPN.com's Chad Ford:
The deal will have a player option for the third year. Saric is expected to receive and sign a contract in the next 24 hours.
The move will essentially prohibit Saric from playing in the NBA for a minimum of two years, the source added. [...]
NBA sources say that Saric's decision to stay in Europe will affect his draft stock. He was getting looks as high as the [Philadelphia] 76ers at 10, the [Denver] Nuggets at 11 and the [Orlando] 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.
Saric was considered a likely first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft before removing his name from consideration prior to the early entry deadline. After staying in Europe, the 6-foot-10 forward earned the Adriatic League's regular-season MVP honors at age 20 after averaging 16.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for Cibona Zagreb, then led Cibona to the league championship and was named MVP of the Adriatic finals.
His combination of size, shooting touch (just under 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range for Cibona during the regular season), ball-handling skills and instincts as a facilitator have made him one of the more intriguing prospects in the world, and he's still considered a first-round lock in Thursday's draft. The question now is whether he'll still come off the board in the late lottery, as many have projected, or if the 20-year-old will slide toward the lower reaches of the first round.
While news of Efes coveting Saric might not have been earth-shattering, one wonders if at least some teams were caught by surprise by Monday's revelation — most notably, perhaps, the Nuggets, whom CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reported over the weekend were closely tied to the Croatian product:
There are strong indications that Dario Saric's invitation to the draft-night green room is the result of a promise from the Nuggets to grab him with the 11th pick. Teams in the mid-to-late lottery have tried to get Saric to come in for workouts, but have been told he'll be gone by the time they pick.
Indeed, DraftExpress' Jonathan Givony had Saric going to Denver with the 11th pick in his most recent mock draft. Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears had Saric coming off the board one pick earlier, going to Philly at No. 10. In light of Monday's report, ESPN's Ford dropped Saric to No. 17, sending him to the Boston Celtics in his most recent mock.
The Celtics, who own the Nos. 6 and 17 picks, are one of eight teams with multiple first-round choices in this year's draft, alongside the 76ers (3 and 10), Magic (4 and 12), Utah Jazz (5 and 23), Charlotte Hornets (9 and 24), Phoenix Suns (14, 18 and 27), Chicago Bulls (16 and 19) and Oklahoma City Thunder (21 and 29). Several such teams might be willing to use one of their picks on Saric as a "draft-and-stash" prospect, allowing him to continue developing overseas for the next couple of years without having to account for him on their salary cap sheets before bringing him to the NBA down the line.
If you've never caught Saric before, take a look at DraftExpress' scouting breakdown of the Croatian point forward:
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