The Phoenix Suns are on the brink of history. After faltering through their 2015-16 campaign, the Suns are back in the spotlight. In the NBA’s most competitive division, the Suns have been one of the top teams all season long. They enter the NBA Finals as the odds-on favorite to win the title. But with such a dominant season, one has to wonder how much better the Suns can become once the postseason begins.

The Phoenix Suns have already suffered a troubling injury loss just 1 game into the NBA Finals.  After losing Deandre Ayton to a left ankle sprain with just over a minute left in the game, the Suns have now been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by the Golden State Warriors.

The Phoenix Suns took a 1-0 lead in the series against the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals on Tuesday night, but lost a key player in the process. Dario Saric, who played in 50 regular season games and 14 playoff games for the Suns this season, left Game 1 early with a knee injury and was later diagnosed with a torn ACL. How will Phoenix replace Saric on the bench for the rest of the series?

Dario Saric has been a solid bench player for the Suns this season

Phoenix Suns’ Dario Saric leaves the court during Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Saric is far from the reason the Suns reached the NBA Finals this season, but he has been a reliable scorer and a favorite in the locker room all year for the Western Conference champions.

In 50 appearances and four starts during the regular season, Saric averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on 44.7 percent shooting. He played just 17.4 minutes per game, but that has more to do with the depth of the roster around him than his play on the field.

We remember: Just a few years ago, Saric was a highly sought after prospect from Croatia. He was ranked 12th in 2014 and was considered a key part of the Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuilding team. In the 2018 playoffs, Saric averaged 17.8 points in 32.9 minutes per game.

Saric could be a valuable player for Phoenix in this year’s NBA Finals, but he will be out for the rest of the game.

Saric tore his ACL in game 1

In the first quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, Saric stopped limping after getting into the paint. He was eventually taken off the field and taken to the Suns’ locker room.

The next day, the team announced that Saric had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. His 2021 season is officially over.

It’s one of those situations that is literally heartbreaking, Suns coach Monty Williams told reporters Wednesday. Dario is a guy I’ve been with twice. I coached him in Philadelphia and I was lucky to be here with him, he is what Suns basketball needs.

The loss is not catastrophic for the Suns, but Saric was a beloved figure in the locker room who will be sorely missed by the team.

He’s a team-oriented guy, Chris Paul told reporters. It’s a matter of the team working day in and day out. He’s one of us. He’s our brother, so it’s hard. It’s hard.

How can the Suns replace Saric in the NBA Finals?

Monty Williams said Dario Saric tearing his ACL is literally heartbreaking. He said Saric represents Suns basketball because he works so hard. He spoke to Saric and said that Dario was shocked and felt very bad.

– Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) July 7, 2021

With Saric out for the season, Williams will only get 11 minutes of playing time as a reserve. At this point, the Suns’ head coach has already decided on his nine-man rotation, so he’ll have to add another name or two for the rest of the series.

As Saric’s immediate replacement, you quickly think of Frank Kaminski. The Wisconsin native averaged 6.6 points per game in the regular season, but played virtually no role in the playoffs. The lesser used Abdel Nader and E’Toon Moore could also get more playing time to soften the blow.

Regardless, the Suns’ hopes for a championship rest largely on the play of Paul, Booker and Ayton. If these three can maintain their exceptional form, Phoenix Saric won’t even have to date Sir. Larry O’Brien.

All statistics provided by Basketball Reference

COMPARED TO: Milwaukee Bucks or Phoenix Suns? In all cases, Torrey Craig gets thering

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