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Hornets Draft Duels – Pick #9 – Dario Saric vs. Jusuf Nurkic


Over the next few weeks leading up to the NBA Draft on June 26th, Queen City Hoops contributors will be facing off with each other (and sometimes themselves) to argue the case for the Hornets to select one player over another. Make sure to have your voice heard by commenting below and by tweeting our live podcast @HiveTalkLive. 


Doug Branson

I challenge you to a duel sir!

So we get to throw out our logins to Watch ESPN’s college hoops archive and prep ourselves for pixelated youtube videos of BALONCESTO INTERNACIONAL!

If we do go all Spurs on this top ten pick and take a high risk, high reward international talent I’m going with a guy who played in competitive leagues and offers us the tools we need offensively to make a difference right away. That guy is the Croatian Sensation (copyright Doug Branson 2014) 6’10” Dario Saric, an offensively versatile power forward who dominated top international talent this year as a member of Cibona.


Spencer Percy

Hard to go wrong with Saric, Doug. But you’re wrong. If I want a polarizing talent from overseas, and a possible draft-and-stash, then it’s not even a question that I’m drafting Jusuf Nurkic.

Picture a Pekovic-Vucevic type that can get off of his feet. Nurkic is extremely skilled offensively. He prefers to play with his back to the basket, and although he has some power, Jusuf is nimble with the spin move to finish with finesse. It’s really funny actually, because Nurkic has a lot in common with Al Jefferson in the sense of feeling contact from the defender and striking with his scoring move (spin, ball-fake, going into contact) – he’s very effective at using a defenders balance against them, and has excellent timing. I see this guy as a fascinating offensive talent and there’s no question that Nurkic is the second best center in this draft behind potential number one pick Joel Embiid.


So apparently “Croatian Sensation” is already reserved for George Clooney’s ex-girlfriend, Monika Jakisic, and boy she’s earned it. My apologies, Ms. Jakisic.

Also, I forgot to congratulate you on your victory in the first duel….AGAINST YOURSELF.

I think that clinking sound you’re hearing is our entire commentariat picking up their pitchforks when they read “draft-and-stash.” We’re ready to win NOW baby! Dario’s dream is to play in the NBA and if he’s selected top-ten I think he’ll make that dream a reality. Saric won the MVP in the Adriatic league and won a championship by carrying his team through two upset victories (one of those victories over Nurkic’s Cedevita squad). What a way to go out! He’s achieved everything he wants out of international play and is ready to shock the NBA with his passion, creativity and a shooting range that continues to blossom.

BUT…on the off chance he does decide to stay, wouldn’t we rather stash a guy we can insert into the lineup in the next two years as opposed to a backup center/four who can’t draw defenses away from Big Al?

Dario is a combo forward who plays the game like a banshee on adrenaline. You won’t see words like “half-speed” attached to Saric like you have with Nurkic. Dario’s shooting range, his ability to run the floor and his aggressiveness on the boards perfectly suits him for today’s NBA game. He would be a brilliant compliment to Big Al.


Well, will you join me in pleading them to please drop the pitchforks?

As I mentioned, Jusuf’s game has some Al Jefferson like features to it in the way he sets up his defender, and he turns 20 this August (Dario is 4 months older). What better training period than two seasons under Big Al only to step right in once Jefferson’s contract runs up after the 2016 season? It seems like it could be the perfect transition in, transition out scenario to me. Not to mention that Jusuf and his agent have already made it sound like he’s coming over the pond after the draft. Dario and his camp cannot say the same – cloudier picture + they’re treating the situation with what seems to be some entitlement.

I agree that Saric could complement Jefferson very well, but again, we don’t even know if the two would ever play together with the uncertainty surrounding Saric coming over to the U.S. this summer. Like in most cases when you draft a European, it needs to be a developmental pick. 7-foot centers that are nimble on both ends + have ability to score the basketball in a myriad of ways are hard to come by – yes, I’m describing Jusuf Nurkic.

In 16.6 MPG last season in the Adriatic League, Nurkic averaged 11.7 PPG & 5.7 RPG. His Per 40 numbers are what really make you look twice — 28.2 PPG & 13.7 RPG.

Size, speed, IQ, and scoring ability for a 7-foot, 280 pound man have me smiling. Jusuf Nurkic could very possible be an all-star center in the NBA one day.


Dario is FOUR months older?! Get the man a wheelchair, sign him up for AARP magazine, put him on a Bayer aspirin regimen STAT.

You’re not the first to throw out the “entitlement” label for Super Dario. Some, including Jonathan Givony from Draft Express, have reported on attitude issues with teammates coaches, etc… I’ve thought a lot about this because we talked so much last year about chemistry and how everyone on the team got along with each other and the coaches. Which was great…

But maybe we could use some competitive fire, some attitude, some killer instinct. When I watch Dario, I get the sense that he has all three. Best of all, he backs it up. You can’t win an MVP, I don’t care if it’s AAU or NBA, without having a little spicy mustard on your hot dog.

While Jusuf’s production in the Adriatic League looks astonishing you know what I didn’t see? Nurkic picking on anyone his own size or with any kind of leaping ability (that spin move is nasty though, I’ll give you that). I didn’t see a ton of double teams thrown his way, either. I did notice that he consistently racked up 10 fouls per 40 minutes. Trust me readers, you won’t have that issue with Dario, his basketball IQ is off the charts.

Dario Saric is an offensive wizard, a fiery competitor with the heart of an MVP. He’s been scrutinized up and down for years and he knows how to play the game strategically. DARIO 2014, Range You Can Believe In.

Spencer, I had the first word, you get the last…


Well I believe it’s fairly safe to say that Charlotte won’t take either one of these players when it’s all said-and-done. The uncertainty around Saric’s contract situation + him possibly not coming over next season will ultimately scare the front office away.

Nurkic is a nice player, and I’ll stand by my opinion of whatever team takes him will reap the benefits one day, but this simply isn’t a position of need on this roster currently.

There is a little less than a month until the draft and there are plenty of story lines to play themselves out until then. Who’s going to move up (Marcus Smart a popular name)? Who’s going to move down (the hype surrounding Aaron Gordon is cooling down)? This will severely affect Charlotte’s decision at #9.

Onto the next duel!

Tell us who won in the comments section. Stay tuned for a live Draft Duel on Hive Talk Live this Friday 6:30pET when Spencer Percy goes 1 on 1 with WFNZ’s Davis Williams.