Unveiling the Versatile Warrior ‘Fours’: A Film Analysis on Dario Šarić’s Potential

Dario Šarić, playing for the Phoenix Suns, shows great potential to be the latest addition to the line of versatile “fours” Golden State Warriors. In his film breakdown, it becomes evident that Šarić possesses the necessary skills and attributes that have made players like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala successful in this position. Saric’s ability to shoot long range, make intelligent passing and defend multiple position makes him a valuable player for any team.

Šarić’s shooting ability is a key aspect of his game that aligns well with the Warriors’ style of play. Saric has a fluid shooting stroke, particularly from beyond the arc. This allows him to create space and draw defenders from the paint. Additionally, Šarić has shown a knack for making smart passes, often finding the open man when the defense collapses on him. This ability is vital for the Warriors fluid play style, in which ball movement and finding a shooter who can be open are key. He is a very good defender, with a great understanding of position and the ability to guard multiple positions. Saric’s versatility is essential in the Warriors’ fast-paced, up-tempo defense, which allows them to adapt and quickly change offensive strategies. Overall, Šarić’s skill set and versatility make him a perfect fit for the Warriors’ system, ensuring that he could be the next in line for their lineage of versatile “fours.”

You can also use Golden State Warriors‘ acquisition of Dario Šarić courtesy of a one-year veteran minimum contract, there’s a certain topic I’ve been wanting to broach: the much-touted winning recipe for the Warriors dynasty that consists of a combination of schemes, lineups, and certain player profiles.

If you spend enough time in this area, you will hear both fans and commentators enumerate these traits in great detail. The motion offense nurtured the talents of core players while maintaining flexibility and an openness to changing things on the spot whenever necessary.

Lineups typically had a traditional center — traditional in the sense of size, skill set, and a bruiser-type approach — but those served as openers to set the tone. Closer lineups often included 6-foot-6 Draymond green at center. This was paired with wings that ranged in size from 6-foot-6 up to 6-foot-8.

There was a small detail in those lineups that most fans, and even some analysts, don’t notice. It may seem paradoxical that a position is so important in a team lineup where there are no positions at all, but the winning record of this team over the past decade proves it.

It is important to note that the word “you” means “you”. “four” position — power forward, if you want to be traditional about it — has played an important role in every Warriors championship in the Stephen Curry era. Look no further than Green himself, who plays the four in traditional lineups and — despite his reputation for being a negative spacer — has carved out a role on offense as the setup man for the likes of Curry and Klay Thompson.

Green’s slide is when the arrow points to the “five” The four are more important in small-ball teams. Green unlocks small lineups the Warriors employ because of his generational defense — but the person occupying the other frontcourt slot is of near-equal importance.

To be effective, a small-ball 4 must fulfill a number of requirements:

  1. He should be able to evenly space the floor.
  2. To fit seamlessly into the Warriors’ fast paced, chaotic style of play, he must have a basketball IQ above a certain threshold.
  3. He must be able switch easily and/or have some knowledge of defensive team schemes.

In every championship iteration of the Warriors — 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2022 — the fours have met at least two of the criteria above. Harrison Barnes, Kevin Durant and Otto Porter Jr. all played as Green’s frontcourt partners and contributed to the Warriors’ success in small ball.

JaMychal green, Porter’s successor, was a major factor in the Warriors’ failure to win the title last season. The Warriors’ struggles in both the regular season as well as the playoffs were not the only cause, but this was a major reason.

The Warriors knew their mission going into the offseason, with a new front office leadership. They needed to replace the slot Porter left vacant — a slot the Warriors failed to fill last season using cheap veteran-minimum contracts.

The contract was not the issue, but rather the type of player that they chose. Although their tax situation limited the flexibility of choice and freedom, luck and circumstance also played a role.

This offseason, Šarić’s availability as an unrestricted free agent may have been a stroke of luck the Warriors didn’t have last offseason. Adding to their good fortune was the fact that Šarić and his camp expressed interest in signing with them, in what is an apparent attempt to bolster his profile for more lucrative deals in the future.

On paper, Šarić profiles as a snugger fit within the Warriors’ ecosystem compared to JaMychal. Not only does Šarić provide the requisite versatility, basketball IQ, and floor spacing possessed by previous fours — he provides the bonus of being 6-foot-10 and possessing the kind of size the Warriors have been lacking.

His ability to stretch out the floor is what sets him apart. Šarić is a career 36% on threes; he shot 39.1% on two attempts per game from beyond the arc last season in 57 games with the Phoenix Suns The Oklahoma City Thunder is a team that has been around since 1995.

Setting solid screens for attention-sucking ball-handlers such as Curry and Chris Paul gives Steve Kerr a plethora of options as to how to use Šarić in the half court. Šarić’s synergy with Paul in second-unit lineups, in particular, was established during their time together as members of the Suns. In the 2020-21 season alone, Paul dished 41 assists to Šarić, a chunk of which were on pick-and-pop actions with Paul engaging both his defender and the roll-man defender around Šarić ball screens.

This left Šarić — parked behind the arc after setting the screen — wide open for shots like these:

A key difference that sets Šarić apart from Porter is the ability to act as a dive man in the pick-and-roll. Šarić may lack the athletic pop and vertical leap that traditional Paul pick-and-roll partners possess, but he has enough juice as a roll man to finish expertly delivered passes from one of history’s premier pick-and-roll passers.

Assuming Paul and Šarić feature heavily in second-unit lineups, I expect Kerr to holster his movement-heavy scheme in favor of a more traditional spread pick-and-roll setup in the half court:

The element of schematic precedence comes into play if and when Kerr opts to employ Šarić as a screener in double-drag/double-ball-screen configurations (which the Warriors call “55” For typical double ball screens “51” whenever a flare screen is involved), something Šarić has previously done with the Suns with Paul as the ball handler. Having one of the screeners be a deadly shooter such as Curry or Thompson gives Šarić more space to roll to the rim:

Šarić’s threat as an outside shooter extends to more than just being a pick-and-pop operator. Last season, the Suns employed Šarić as a spacer on the weak-side wing to punish defenses sending an extra defender at the “nail” The area in the middle of free throw line can be accessed through full or stunts.next-coverage” commitments.

Being one pass away on the wing allowed Šarić to drill open looks created by the threat of middle penetration:

Šarić isn’t shy about using the threat of his shooting to attack hard closeouts and create advantages by putting the ball on the floor. He has the vision and the interior-passing ability to find teammates in the dunker position and baseline cutters once he touches paint.

He is also a great passing hub, with an uncanny knack for hitting cutters in motion with precision.

But what intrigues me the most in terms of Šarić’s playmaking is his short-roll passing. Draymond is one of the few Warriors players who excels at the mid-court and makes quick decisions.

Šarić processes reads quickly without sacrificing accuracy:

These quick decisions also include cutting space in order to add additional pressure to a defense already tilted:

Šarić is far from the perfect role player despite the salivating flashes above. Saric checks off two traits on the list above: the ability to play with others and the floor spacing. However, the third characteristic is more mixed.

Šarić won’t profile as a particularly trustworthy individual defender, nor will he catch eyes with his pick-and-roll defense. Saric has never averaged over 0.4 blocks per season and does not provide much mitigation at the rim.

Kerr has to be creative when it comes to his lineups. If defense is the concern, he will have to pair Šarić with at least one wing defender (e.g., Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, or Jonathan Kuminga) and a help-side partner (e.g., Draymond Green).

If Kerr is emboldened to be a bit more adventurous and favor offensive firepower, a lineup of Paul-Thompson-Moody-Kuminga-Šarić isn’t out of the question. Šarić has shown enough spot-up chops to drill open shots created by roll-man advantages, such as a theoretical pick-and-roll set between Paul and Kuminga with Šarić, Thompson, and Moody creating a spaced floor.

Kerr may even opt to close quarters with a Curry-Payton-Wiggins-Šarić-Green lineup to serve as the perfect balance between offense and defense. The coaching staff can play around with several configurations due to Šarić unlocking the kind of lineup versatility the Warriors simply didn’t have last season – and that may be the greatest gift the Croatian can provide the team next season.

Another question is whether this will translate to a role that has enough impact to help win them another title. It’s a huge step in the right direction, and it is a sign that will kick off the Mike Dunleavy Jr. Era to a promising beginning.