After missing the playoffs for the first time in twelve seasons, the Dallas Mavericks were back in the lottery during the 2013 with the opportunity to possibly add a young piece to a rebuilt but still aging roster. But we all remember how that went.
Mark Cuban shot down Donnie Nelson's suggestion of drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 13th overall selection. Instead, the Mavericks traded down to conserve cap space, until they eventually selected Shane "the next J.J. Barea" Larkin at 18.
We all remember how the Mavs ended up with Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon instead of Dwight Howard that summer, and how Larkin's greatest impact with the Mavericks was being part of the Tyson Chandler trade. But not many of us remember how the 2013 draft was doomed before it even started.
Eleven days prior to the draft, Dario Saric, then just 19 years old, decided to remove his name from the draft. The young Croatian forward would have been the perfect selection for the Mavericks that season. It would have allowed the team to stash his rights overseas, as he continued to develop, and more importantly for the team, it would have kept their cap room untouched.
Also, it would have given the team something they haven't had in ages: a young and ridiculously talented prospect who can play alongside and behind Dirk Nowitzki, and possibly attempt to take over Dirk's spot once the Big German hangs them up.
There were concerns regarding how long Saric was planning to stay overseas, which may have hurt any draft promises that the young forward needed to stay in the draft. But many believed that the Mavericks selecting Saric, if he was still on the board, was a given. (Though rumors also had him going as high as six to the New Orleans Pelicans.)
The Philadelphia 76ers would select Saric the following season at twelve via a draft day trade with the Orlando Magic. Fast forward to today, and he will now be joining Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers this season after spending the last two seasons overseas.
Saric is currently a huge player for Croatia in the FIBA Olympic Tournament. Through two games, the versatile forward has averaged 12 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6 assists against Spain and Argentina.
There is no certainty that the Mavericks could have made a move or promise to keep Saric in the draft, but watching Saric this Olympics doesn't stop us from thinking "what if."
Saric will have to adjust to the NBA game, but there's no denying that he has the talent and skill set to last in the NBA, as you can see below.
Dario Saric is CLUTCH and Croatia beat Spain! https://t.co/oAlbqOcYcQ— Sportando (@Sportando) August 8, 2016
August 10, 2016
Here was a good example of Saric's ability to pass out of the post: https://t.co/l4b4NYy59y— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) August 7, 2016
Dario Saric POINT GAWD. #FIBAOQT— CroSports (@CroSports_) July 8, 2016
Brings the ball up the court then drives in for the lay-up and-1. #Sixers pic.twitter.com/dyr2iP7tcK
Adding Saric to a young bench rotation of Seth Curry, Justin Anderson, Quincy Acy and Dwight Powell, while learning from veterans such as Dirk, Andrew Bogut, Wesley Matthews, Deron Williams and Harrison Barnes this upcoming season would have been a dream scenario years ago.
But alas. No Giannis Antetokounmpo, no Rudy Gobert, and now, no Dario Saric.