Dario Šarić: Phoenix Suns’ trade piece or valuable role player?

Phoenix Suns, Dario Saric Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Dario Saric Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The Phoenix Suns may be boosted by the return of Dario Šarić next season, after the Croatian missed all of last year following a torn ACL sustained in the 2021 NBA Finals.

However, the 28-year-old also poses as a likely trade candidate this offseason. That may be simply for the Suns to upgrade their roster, although he may also be shipped out as part of the team ducking the league’s luxury tax implications.

Will Dario Šarić return as the same contributor he was in the Phoenix Suns 2020-21 season, or will he leave the franchise in an offseason manoeuvre?

Šarić has one-year and $9.24 million remaining on the initial three-year contract he signed in November 2020. That salary, combined with being an expiring contract, could make him an integral piece should the Suns need to aggregate salaries for an incoming player via trade.

Of course, that’s also dependant on how the franchise values him internally. That’s difficult to ascertain given his long-term injury, complicated by the fact he also underwent further surgery in May.

It’s clear he’s a much loved part of the organization though, evident by the reaction of key personnel following his injury in game one of the Finals.

"“I coached him in Philly, and to get a chance to be with him here, he’s what Suns basketball is about. Hard worker, unbelievable guy and he was so looking forward to playing in these Finals”. – Phoenix Head Coach Monty Williams"

"“Dario is our guy. He’s our energy in the locker room that you guys don’t get to see, but we love him and we are here with him…As far as the court goes, obviously we’re going to be missing his presence and the things that he does out there, but everybody is going to have to give a little bit more”.                                                                                                                                                                         – Phoenix superstar Devin Booker"

Šarić averaged 17.4 minutes during the 2020-21 regular season, proving himself a valuable small-ball center option with his capacity to shoot from deep. He averaged 8.7 points, including shooting 34.8% from three-point range on nearly three attempts per game.

His injury does open up question marks that could prove too difficult to overcome. After spending over 90% of his playing time as a power forward across his first few NBA seasons, Phoenix turned Šarić into primarily a backup five in their system.

Already with questionable lateral quickness and agility, this serious injury further pigeonholes Šarić as a center in today’s modern NBA. With that being the case, he sits alongside three other designated centers on the roster (Deandre Ayton, Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale).

Šarić could foreseeably earn more minutes than the latter two, especially considering point-of-difference as a stretch big (though Landale can shoot it too). However, his inflated salary makes him the most expendale of the four.

The Suns’ lack of point-guard depth has been well documented, opening up the idea that Šarić, as an expendable big, should be moved in favour of a playmaking bench piece.

Next. Should the Phoenix Suns delve into a more modern offensive playstyle?. dark

Šarić is a valuable NBA player – his shooting, passing vision and creation can fit within any NBA offense. But the reality is that his injury, contract, and the team’s current roster construction means he could very well be moved in the next six months.