Sixers get Dario Saric, picks in deal with Magic

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Sixers get Dario Saric, picks in deal with Magic

After spending the third overall pick in the draft on Joel Embiid (see story), who may not suit up at all next season, the Sixers next ended up with a player that is guaranteed not to play for them for at least two years.

Elfrid Payton, from Louisiana-Lafayette, was the selction at No. 10, but his time with the Sixers lasted barely two picks. That’s because the Sixers and the Orlando Magic, who had the 12th pick, completed a trade. The Sixers will get Dario Saric (see bio), the MVP of the Adriatic League last season, along with a second-round pick in 2015 and a first-round pick in 2016 or 2017, according to a source.

The Magic are returning the first-round pick they received from the Sixers in the three-team Andrew Bynum trade in 2012.

With Saric, it’s possible the Sixers will have two first-round picks sit out in the 2014-15 season.

Embiid, of course, is recovering from a broken foot and will miss four to six months. Whether or not the Sixers hold Embiid out for the rest of the season remains a strong possibility.

Meanwhile, Saric, 20, signed a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He will have to play for the team for at least two seasons and has a player option to play a third. The Sixers hold the rights to sign Saric until his contract ends. If the Sixers fail to come to a deal with Saric, he can return to the draft.

Will the Sixers ever see Saric suit up? One has to assume they will. At 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Saric is a stretch four with a soft touch from the outside and deft passing abilities. He’s been on NBA scouts’ radar since he was 15, and they rave about his basketball IQ.

Saric needs to work on his shooting, according to reports. Given that the Sixers were the worst shooting team in the NBA last season and have not improved after two top-10 picks in the draft, it’s clear the team is still a work in progress.

It’s also clear that general manager Sam Hinkie is taking the long-term approach. The No. 10 pick was acquired with last year’s No. 6 pick (Noel) when the Sixers traded All-Star Jrue Holiday to New Orleans.

“Dario is an extremely versatile and highly accomplished player at various international levels," Hinkie said in a statement released by the team. "His basketball instincts, his ability to pass and his desire for greatness drew us to him. Our staff has tracked him across the globe for many years now, and we were ecstatic to be able to acquire him.“

The team also dealt away veterans Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes with only Thad Young remaining from the team of two years ago.

But how long will Young last? The Sixers have five picks in the second round and plenty of assets.

Can the team add on even more potential?

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”