Dario’s dunks 3s make him appear to be a mere mortal player for the Phoenix Suns. Let him work his magic from the mid-range, however, and he shall become super.
Dario Saric, the unassuming 6’10” power forward with Three Musketeers facial hair, joined the Phoenix Suns with the promise of solidifying the four spot next to Deandre Ayton. He started the year justifying the trade that brought him to Phoenix. His 3-ball was dropping and all was right in Super Dario World.
Yet, as the season has progressed, Dario found himself an expendable piece of the rotation and in the position most fans believed needed improvement. A trade to better the power forward position is not needed if the Suns figure out how to unlock Super Dario.
To say that Dario Saric is nonathletic is an understatement. His leaping ability is comparable to that of an African elephant. Billy Hoyle has more hops. When Devin Booker gets doubled and finds a wide open Dario under the basket, one should not expect the ESPN Sports Center highlight dunk. Instead, expect a slow motion struggle dunk, something that makes your stomach ache just watching.
I don’t know if I have seen a guy miss so many in-tight lay-ups that make one full trip around the rim before falling off. It truly is painful to watch.
What Dario lacks in athleticism (which is a lot), he makes up for with his hustle. He never takes a play off, fights for every loose ball, and puts everything he has into his game. He was not gifted with natural athleticism, therefore he must make up for it with heart. And Dario has plenty of heart.
He is a valuable piece of the Phoenix Suns puzzle, and if the team chooses to utilize his skill set effectively, wins will follow.
The Suns do not need to make the big trade deal; they have the guy already suiting up every night playing the four. He has the offensive capability to contribute to the team and help them win games. What is important is the location from which he is shooting the ball from.
Have you ever played Mario Bros. on NES? Yeah, I’m going there. The Suns need to treat Dario Saric like Level 1-1: take their un-athletic forward, jump on the second “?” block they see, and give him the mushroom. What will this do?
It will unlock Super Dario.
Dario Sarics’s 3-point shooting has been abysmal this season. He is shooting a very pedestrian 31.9%. That is good for 10th on the team (of players who have shot more than 25 3-pointers). You would think with such poor accuracy that he wouldn’t shoot that often. You would think that he’d second guess his form or his release.
You would be wrong.
48% of his shots on the year thus far have come from beyond the arc, and he is 3rd on the team in total three-pointers attempted, trailing only Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre. That is not a recipe for success. It is a recipe for opposing team rebounds.
Perhaps the first 10 games of the season instilled a confidence in Dario that he was now a deep threat, seeing as he shot 37.8% during that time frame. The shooting has continued but the accuracy has not. Since game 10, he has shot a meager 29.9%.
They key to unlocking Super Dario is to avoid the three ball and focus on ways to get him looks from the mid-range.
The Suns have begun working on this as of late. Take a look at this play at the beginning of the Spurs vs. Suns game on January 24. As Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton play the two-man game, watch Dario. He sets the secondary pick on LaMarcus Aldridge then bleeds out to the 20-foot mark. If the ball comes his way, he is open. On this play, however, the pick and roll works to perfection and it is an easy two-hand jam by DA.
Later in the game, Booker and DA play the two-man again. This time, however, Aldridge slips the Saric screen and takes Booker. In LaMarcus’ mind, he has made the right move. Booker recognizes that the first and second options to score on this play have been taken away by the defense. With Aldridge in his face, he cannot shoot the easy jump shot, and the passing lane to DA has been shut off. Booker also knows that the third scoring option on the play, Saric, is wide open for a mid-range jumper.
Booker passes to Saric, Saric squares up from 20 feet. Net it.
This play displays a creative way to utilize Dario effectively. His mid-range game is efficient, and the more the team finds him as a tertiary option, the better the Super Dario will perform.
When looking at Dario Saric’s shooting chart on the season, the first glaring opportunity is the mid-range jump shot. From 10 feet from the hoop to the 3 point line, Dario has shot a mere 36 attempts. That equates to 9.3% of his total shots. His shooting percentage, however is 50%. The top of the key has been very kind to him, as he is 9-12 in shots similar to the one he took against the Spurs.
The challenge for the Suns is to find ways to get Dario the ball in this space. Monty Williams will need to draw up more plays that incorporate this type of offense approach rather than spread the floor and shoot the three.
Dario has proven to be effective, but team effort needs to be spent ensuring he sees shot attempts from mid-range. Why? Because I’d rather get hit by one of those darn spinies that Lakitu throws than watch Dario shoot another 3-ball.