By: PJ Guippone
Today, Jessica Camerato had an interesting tweet about Dario Saric. From the second he stepped on the court for the Sixers, his talent was obvious, but his production wasn’t quite at a high level, yet. After the All-Star Break, though, he has put himself right at the front of the Rookie of the Year discussion. Many people have had ideas as to why that may be, but Camerato came at the discussion with a slightly different idea. According to her, Saric’s mother has been visiting him in the states since the All Star break.
This is such an awesome story in a year where quite a few heartwarming mom stories have been coming out in Philadelphia sports (see Haason Reddick). I love this take on his splits, though. Also, I know that my mom is probably reading this and she is absolutely ecstatic that there is mom love on a blog that has been filled with gambling and stats she’s not really interested in.
So let’s look at the actual splits of before and after mom for Dario. In 56 games before the break, Dario started 11 and averaged 24.4 minutes per game. He shot just below 40%, including 33% from three, on ten attempts per game for 10.8 points per game. Additionally, he had about 6 rebounds and 1.8 assists to 1.9 turnovers. That in no way is a bad rookie stat line, especially in a frontcourt logjam, but it wasn’t quite the level of production Philly expected from Saric.
Now, in ten games following the break, Saric is one of the main pieces in a frontcourt that has an injured Embiid and Simmons. He has started all ten of the games and has averaged 33.6 minutes per game. Although he is taking six more shots per game at 16, he has increased his shooting percentage to 45.6%. His three-point percentage has fallen to 30%, but his overall scoring has increased to 19.7 points per game. Also, his rebounding has ballooned to 8.4 per game, and he now has 4.4 assists per game, including some absolute dimes. He has five 20+ point games and three double doubles. He has set a career high in points with 29, rebounds with 15, and assists with 8. He has been balling.
It would be easy to credit this statistical explosion to the lack of competition he currently has in the previously loaded frontcourt the Sixers had. Nerlens Noel was lost to a trade. Embiid was lost to injury. That freed up plenty of playing time for Super Dario, which has absolutely given him the freedom to play to the maximum of his potential. Isn’t that boring, though? Sure, that’s probably the reason, but what if he’s just finally comfortable. Wouldn’t it be much more of a fun story if Dario was a momma’s boy? Think about it. He was that kid when you were little that hung onto his mom’s pants when she was droppin him off at camp. He couldn’t bear the idea of doing something fun without his mother within arm’s reach. His basketball development was stalled as a child because he needed his mom to be the one rebounding his free throws. The games she wasn’t in the stands resulted in a sob at halftime sandwiched by a mopey performance on both ends of the floor.
But with her there, he is Superman. He is Philadelphia’s unicorn, which is an animal that has been popping up more and more across the NBA. An animal indigenous to Eastern Europe, they can shoot, pass and ball handle, and are normally taller than 6’9″. The first in North America popped up in New York, then one in Denver, now a young one is growing up in Philadelphia. The mother of this newest one is where he finds his power. The mother unicorn is the real x-factor that will make the process reach its fulfillment.