Dario Saric was great in his role for the Thunder this season

Dario Saric #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Dario Saric #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /

A heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament marked the end of the Thunder season, but it also marked the end of forward Dario Saric’s contract. OKC could bring back Dario Saric to play a similar role, in which he provided size, shooting, and experience.

Saric was acquired by the Thunder during the trade deadline on Feb. 9 with a 2029 second-round pick in exchange for Darius Bazley. In 20 games for OKC, Saric averaged 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting an efficient 51.5 percent from the field.

Dario Saric played productive minutes for the Oklahoma City Thunder down the stretch despite a small sample size.

The seven-year NBA veteran provided much needed size for a Thunder team that heavily relied on small ball lineups throughout the season, which was of course due to the season-ending injury suffered by the 2022 No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren.

Dario Saric was serviceable in the interior as a defender and rebounder. In his final game of the season, he grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots against the Utah Jazz. That game marked his only double-double in a Thunder jersey.

Oklahoma City marks the Croatian big man’s fourth NBA team in six seasons, not counting the 2021-22 season in which he was out due to an ACL injury he suffered with the Suns during their NBA Finals run.

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In the 2022-23 season, Saric played just 14.1 minutes per game, which is a career low. Regardless, he played really productive minutes, averaging 19.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per 36 minutes for OKC. Although per 36 is not always an accurate representation of a player’s abilities, there’s no denying his productivity.

Saric was also extremely consistent for the Thunder, rarely having bad shooting games from the field.

His best performance of the season was in late February against the Sacramento Kings, scoring 21 points on 7-of-11 from the field. He also knocked down two threes and hauled in eight rebounds.

In only 20 games, Saric was a great bench piece. However, the three-year, $27 million contract he signed with the Suns is officially complete, making Saric a free agent this summer.

For Saric, he could expect to see interest from playoff teams with his stretch ability, but there is a chance he returns to Oklahoma City.

He has expressed interest in returning to the Thunder next season. During his exit interview, Saric said, “I’d like to be back.”

Although the Thunder roster is notoriously young, OKC is not above signing veteran players to long-term deals, as they signed 28-year-old Kenrich Williams to a contract extension, keeping him on board until 2027. Saric just turned 29 in April.

Saric showed that he can be a really good bench piece moving forward. His consistent shot-making, good size and good playmaking ability for his position, Saric proved to be a great trade deadline acquisition.

We’ll see soon enough if Saric will become a long-term bench piece for the Thunder, or if the two sides will choose to go another direction this summer. If this is the end of Saric’s OKC career, he certainly had an impressive run.

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