Robert Covington and Dario Saric Successfully Adjusting in Minnesota

    "You don’t have time to cry or be sad," Dario Saric said on his trade to Minnesota. "In the first moment you just feel weird and different, but after that

    December 26, 2018

    “You don’t have time to cry or be sad,” Dario Saric said on his trade to Minnesota. “In the first moment you just feel weird and different, but after that some time passes and you realize you need to move on.”

    “Shocked, because it was unexpected,” Robert Covington said of the trade. “It got under my skin a little bit in the first couple of hours after it happened.”

    Both Saric and Covington were part of a blockbuster trade between the Timberwolves and 76ers that sent All-Star Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia. Butler had requested a trade from the Timberwolves at the beginning of the season. After starting the season for an Eastern conference contender in Philadelphia, both players are adjusting to their new roles in Minneapolis.

    “Just a part of the business,” Saric said. “It’s not happened just to me, it’s happened previously to so many guys.”

    “Stuff like that happens,” Covington said. “That’s the nature of this business. It just means that you have value.”

    Covington remains a starter in Minnesota and he has seen his role increase. He’s taking more shots per game and his floor-spacing ability has allowed Karl-Anthony Towns to increase his production. Here’s a look at Towns’ numbers before and after the trade.

    Karl-Anthony Towns Splits Points Per Game FG% Rebounds Per Game Basketball-Reference Game Score
    Before Jimmy Butler Trade (13 games) 19.9 45.9 10.8 16.0
    After Jimmy Butler Trade (through Dec. 25, 20 games) 21.6 49.8 11.8 17.2

     

    There isn’t a big difference in overall production, but Towns is playing at a more efficient level since the trade. Covington has also elevated his play as he becomes more involved.

    Robert Covington Splits Points Per Game FG% Rebounds Per Game Assist%
    With 76ers (13 games) 11.3 42.7 5.2 4.4
    With Timberwolves (through Dec. 25) 13.9 43.7 5.8 5.1

     

    “[I’m] doing a lot more than I did there just based off the utilization,” Covington said. “Just more involved and more engaged.” Covington’s contributions on both ends have essentially mitigated Butler’s absence, allowing Minnesota to keep pace in a tight Western conference.

    Post-Trade Statistics Points Per Game FG% Rebounds Per Game Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
    Robert Covington (18 games, through Dec. 25) 13.9 43.7 5.8 114 107
    Jimmy Butler (18 games, through Dec. 25) 18.8 47.6 4.9 119 108

     

    Covington has also provided some leadership to a younger Minnesota core.

    “The identity here wasn’t established until things shifted,” Covington said. “Having that mindset of being able to come in and be a vocal leader to these guys, it’s something that I’ve always had.”

    Despite the shocking nature of the trade, Covington’s transition hasn’t been as difficult as one would think.

    “I knew a lot of these guys before I even came here,” he said. “The transition was real easy.”

    On the other hand, Saric has faced more than just a team transition. He’s been put in an entirely new role coming off the bench. Saric started 136 of his 204 games in Philadelphia.

    “Of course, for me, it’s a little bit easier when I start,” Saric said. “You feel more important when you start, but when you’re coming from the bench you can see it whats going on the court.”

    “You don’t have maybe the kind of pressure there,” Saric added. “Both things are good and I try to handle whatever situation they put me.”

    Dario Saric Splits Points Per Game FG% 3-Point% Rebounds Per Game Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
    With 76ers (13 games, all starts) 11.1 36.4 30.0 6.6 98 112
    With Timberwolves (19 games, 1 start, through Dec. 25) 11.1 49.4 36.1 6.1 121 113

     

    So far, the adjustment has worked for Saric. He’s been far more efficient in Minnesota and his offensive rating has skyrocketed playing against opposing second units. This has allowed the Timberwolves to use him in a variety of lineups, creating mismatches for Saric and his teammates across the board. Minnesota is +10.6 and +17.0 points per 100 possessions better than its opponents in the two most utilized five-man lineups featuring Saric, respectively. Only one five-man lineup featuring him has a negative point rating.

    Covington and Saric have played better together in Minnesota than Philadelphia during this early adjustment period. They are 5.1 points better than opponents per 100 possessions in 253 minutes together with the Timberwolves, according to basketball-reference.com. The duo was 1.7 points worse than opponents in 310 minutes with the 76ers.

    Both players said it helped to have each other during the early acclimation period, but added that teammates have been welcoming in Minnesota.

    “Of course it’s easier when you have a guy, other teammates who are with you who move in the middle of the season,” Saric said. “But this is a grown up man business, other guys are nice to you. It’s not some big problem or something like ‘I’m missing my old teammates.’ Of course you’re missing old teammates but you meet new people, you find new friends, new teammates.”

    Minnesota is 11-9 in 20 games since the Butler deal with Covington and Saric successfully fitting into their new roles. The duo is pivotal to the team’s playoff hopes this season and their early success bodes well for the franchise going forward.

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