It’s painful. It stings the eyes. You find your tear ducts swelling as they hold back the incoming moisture. No, I’m not referencing a good shot in the face with an aerosol of a volatile solvent like CS gas (my Army folk feel me), I’m talking about the play thus far of Phoenix Suns backup “center” Dario Saric.
Through the first two games of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, Dario Saric has a -16.9 net rating. His offense? Non-existent. His defense? See previous answer. Our faith in him? Two answers ago.
Saric has reminded me of Cary Elwes’ character from the 1997 film Liar Liar. First off, I never say his name right. Is it “ell-wes”? Or “youles”? Maybe “you-wes”. Cary plays Jerry, the fiancé to Fletcher Reede’s (played by Jim Carrey) former wife. While adorable, he is a fumbling and awkward try-too-hard guy. He means well but he’ll never be what Max, his soon-to-be stepson, needs.
Sound like Dario? He means well, he does, but he is limited.
The matchup against the Lakers does not bode well for Dario. He is a guy who relies on fundamentals to be effective rather than athleticism. His affinity for this brand of basketball is negated due to the Lakers physicality on the interior. He is attempting to get low and stick dat ass into the hips of the opposition, but that technique has been useless thus far.
Watch how Andre Drummond destroys him on this play in Game 2:
Dario Saric getting blown the fuck up by Andre Drummond in 3...2..1... pic.twitter.com/qdfII56w7n— John Voita (@DarthVoita) May 26, 2021
One of the adjustments the Lakers made on Tuesday night was to force Monty Williams to insert Saric early. After a mere 58 seconds of gameplay, when Jae Crowder committed his second foul on Anthony Davis (no nut jokes here), the second-year Suns head coach looked down the bench and pulled the trigger on allowing Dario into the game.
The result? Dario had an offensive rating of 85.7, a defensive rating of 122.7, and a net rating of -37 for the remainder of the quarter. In hindsight, that was a vital stretch for the Suns. They’re -6 in Q1 was they’re biggest deficit relative to quarter scoring. They matched the Lakers in point in Q2 and Q4 and were -1 in Q3 (thus the 7-point loss).
Saric’s poor play in the first, although not solely responsible, was a glaring contributing factor in the Phoenix loss.
Dario: 10 minutes, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 2 personal fouls— Dave King (@DaveKingNBA) May 26, 2021
Saric has been consistently ineffective during his 26 minutes played thus far this series. Ineffective rebounding (4 boards...that’s it), ineffective shooting (2-for-5), ineffective ball handling, ineffective passing (4 turnovers), ineffective walking. He is tied with Cameron Johnson for the team’s worst +/- through two games at -11.
Hell, he even had a tossed a great outlet pass to LeBron James which lead to an uncontested dunk. “Steal”? Okay, Lakers Twitter...
It’s early in the series. I understand that. Monty was forced into a decision he probably was not prepared to make. He holds the game planning keys and there must be something he sees in Dario we currently do not. I feel as if the loyalty Monty has to certain players, à la Elie Okobo last season, has thus far been detrimental to the Suns.
I don’t want this to be a Dario Saric smear campaign. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the funk that his has been mired in since mid-season. I just want to push the “give those minutes to Torrey Craig” narrative. Because in Torrey I do trust.
Why hasn’t Monty chosen to deploy the more athletic Craig?! He could be our Jim Carrey! The claw, anyone?
Is he a backup five? No. Heck no. Matching him against the likes of Andre Drummond could spell interior disaster. But for the limited minutes in which super-playoff star Deandre Ayton sits, if Monty is determined to go undersized and not play Frank Kaminsky, why not go for broke and see what happens with Torrey? Although his is 3” shorter than Saric, Craig officially weights just 4 pounds less and plays much bigger than his size. He is serviceable at the position, appearing to be a better rebounder and more active defender.
Torrey “the Juice” Craig has the playoff experience as well, entering this postseason with 33 games played with the Denver Nuggets. His per numbers equate to 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in those games.
The downside of Craig is the lack of interior presence on offense. There is no posting up. There is no backing down. All that Craig provides is the skillset of our other wings: three-point shooting with the occasional rim running cut. If your goal is to pull all bigs out of the paint, however, this could work. The Lakers did what they could to create switches in Game 2 to pull Ayton out of the paint, which allowed Drummond to cook.
Let Craig do the same.
Regardless of what I believe the Suns would do and should do, again, it comes down to how Monty views the matchups. And it appears that he wants to do the ultimate zag. He wants more Dario.
Monty said the Suns aren't playing through Dario Saric enough on offense and they need to find ways to get him involved. Noted the Lakers' size makes his minutes a challenge, and the Suns' team rebounding wasn't there to help make up for it tonight— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) May 26, 2021
Month and his loyalties. His belief that Dario is the great “connector” on offense will either be a stroke of genius or a second-team nightmare we’ll be talking about this offseason while we dream up ways to dish the Saric contract for some size.
Bring on Game 3. I will be watching those Saric minutes very carefully. I pray that I am wrong. I hope that Dario gets his groove back. I've had those feeling since February...