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Dario Saric still in rotation, according to Suns’ Monty Williams

Dario Saric #20 of the Phoenix Suns argues for possession in front of Patrick Beverley #21 of the LA Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on December 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — With the Phoenix Suns getting desperate and trying a two-center approach to the starting lineup with Deandre Ayton and Aron Baynes the last two games, starting power forward Dario Saric’s playing time has been the main casualty.

And instead of Saric moving to the bench and playing a more limited role behind the two bigs, Saric hasn’t had one. He played only four minutes in Friday’s win over the Knicks and only appeared in Sunday’s loss because Ayton was in foul trouble.

It was a perplexing move considering Saric’s importance to the team, starting in all 34 games and playing 26.8 minutes a night prior to those two games.

He’s averaging 10.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game on 44.1% shooting from the field and 32.9% efficiency at three-point range.

Saric is one of the team’s best players when it comes to consistently making the right play. He helps them offensively with his passing and shooting while also being one of the top three help defenders too. His energy is always there, even when shots aren’t falling.

Head coach Monty Williams actually spoke to how crucial Saric’s contributions are on Monday after practice.

“Dario is a connector for us. When he’s in the game, the ball moves,” he said, citing the Suns’ passing numbers being down lately as Saric’s playing time has faded.

In what simply has to be viewed as a severe change given how much Saric meant to the team, Williams downplayed it to being a move that was intended for matching up better against the opposition and that Saric isn’t out of the mix.

“I gotta figure out a way to get him in the game because he’s a good player,” Williams said. “He hasn’t played as well as he’s capable of but we’re certainly not giving up on Dario.”

Williams pointed towards the Knicks and Grizzlies starting quick, stretchy fours like Julius Randle and Jaren Jackson Jr. that could give Saric problems.

But to bail on that type of player Saric is because of slightly better matchups against bad teams is strange, especially considering the skid the Suns are on. And there’s an argument to be made that the switch isn’t even much of an upgrade anyway.

This is not bailing on Saric, however, per Williams.

“He’s going to be in the rotation whether or not I change the lineup,” he said.

Adding onto the complexity of this coaching choice is that Saric is a restricted free agent this offseason, meaning he’s going to want to play in a contract year, and other teams would be interested in Saric if he’s available, thanks largely in part to his affordable contract of just over $3 million. It’s surely a trend over the weekend that caused a few teams to perk up given the NBA’s trade deadline is on Feb. 6.

All those variables aside, the one that matters the most is that Saric’s effectiveness could change now, as is often the case for players when their role is inconsistent.

“Of course it’s kind of hard with everything but I am professional and respect the coach’s decision,” Saric said.

Speaking on Saric’s rotation role, Williams emphasized that he doesn’t think consistently changing the starting lineup is a wise idea. So, whether that’s going back to Saric and ditching the failed experiment on Tuesday against the Kings or trudging through with the dual-center look is what to watch for next.

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