Phoenix Suns getting early indication on Dario Saric

Sep 27, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric poses for a portrait during media day at the Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric poses for a portrait during media day at the Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Phoenix Suns are getting an early indication on the return of Dario Saric, with the 28-year-old appearing as a crucial link to his national team’s EuroBasket hopes.

The European Basketball Championships officially begin later this week, however there’s already been a number of important lead-in games that have doubled as qualifiers for next year’s FIBA World Cup and the Championships in 2025.

The Croatian has made a successful return to date, having missed all of last season following a devastating ACL injury suffered in game one of the 2021 NBA Finals.

The Phoenix Suns will be eager to keep an eye on the fitness and form of Dario Saric as he competes for Croatia at EuroBasket 2022.

Saric played just under 19 minutes yesterday in Croatia’s win against Switzerland, scoring 13 points on 3-for-7 shooting and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. He also added seven rebounds and two assists in a comfortable 84-53 win.

He had 9 points, six rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes against Poland in a hard-fought win. Last week he top scored with 18 points in a 94-88 loss to a Luka Doncic-less Slovenia, while he also had nine points on 3-for-8 shooting in a prior game against Hungary.

Perhaps the biggest point of interest is Saric’s movement and athleticism as a forward, rather than as a small-ball center. After playing the majority of his early career as a four, head coach Monty Williams utilized Saric as a center for 82% of his game time in his last NBA season.

But back with his national team, Saric will have more opportunity as a point-forward, demonstrating his ball-handling, passing, and the three-point shooting he’s become known for. Part of this is also through necessity as Los Angeles Clippers big man Ivica Zubac is the unequivocal starting center for the Croatians.

Who knows, perhaps Saric will prove himself capable of playing short stints alongside Deandre Ayton or Bismack Biyombo in certain lineups. That’s certainly not an issue offensively, it’s just whether he can hold up in a more perimeter-oriented defensive role.

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While FIBA rules vary and the level of talent may not be entirely comparable, this is still a great opportunity for an early look at Saric in an elite environment. The Croatians will take on two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece in their opening game of EuroBasket on September 2.