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?

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."