With the dust settled on the Jimmy Butler trade, now we’re left to figure out how the Wolves will look with Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and eventually Jerryd Bayless added to the fold.
Whether or not the Wolves “won the trade” is up for debate, but they certainly got quality players in return for Butler. Covington and Saric both started games in Philadelphia, and certainly figure to earn a heavy amount of minutes (even if they don’t start from the beginning).
As of Sunday afternoon, Andrew Wiggins told the media that a starting lineup involving the new additions had not yet been discussed, but it would make sense to substitute Covington in Butler’s old spot. Saric may see himself placed into the starting lineup over Taj Gibson.
Gibson didn’t seem to have an issue with the potential change when he was asked on Sunday, should it happen.
“I don’t really care, I’m not really into that. I can play off the bench, starting. I knew that question was going to happen, this is the only time I’m going to answer that question. I can come off the bench or I can start, it doesn’t matter,” Gibson said. “I just want to win games and compete. That’s my ultimate goal.”
The Wolves very well may employ both of them as starters, or bring one off the bench, that’s yet to be seen.
How will these two fit in with the rest of the offense moving forward for the Wolves?
Both Covington and Saric are threats from beyond the arc. Covington has a reputation as an extremely streaky shooter from deep – the highs, oh, they’re high, but the lows, man, they’re low – and Saric has struggled from 3-point range this year but knocked down nearly 40 percent of his attempts from that range last season.
Covington and Saric have both attempted over half of their shots this season from behind the 3-point arc. Entering play on Monday the only player in Minnesota’s rotation shooting more than 50 percent his shots from deep was Anthony Tolliver.
Covington is having a better season shooting so far than Saric, he’s hit 39 percent of his 3-point attempts and 67 percent of his shots come from deep.
Last week’s examination of Derrick Rose’s barrage from 3-point range showed that he split his attempts between pull-up and catch-and-shoot exactly even. That couldn’t be further from the truth for both the newcomers. For Covington, 63.5 percent of his total shots have been catch-and-shoot 3s, while 52.3 percent of Saric’s have been that variety.
As for pull-up 3s, Covington has attempted four of them this season (making one), and Saric hasn’t hit any of the three pull-ups he’s attempted. That’s not what the Sixers asked them to do, and it won’t be what the Wolves will ask them to do, either. If it’s part of a new job description for them, it’s not going to be successful.
The catch-and-shoot route is the one that the Wolves should be going with these two. That’s where their success has been, and with the Wolves shooting more 3s as a team this year, that number should continue to rise.
Here Covington is able to find an opening in semi-transition. There’s no reason that this can’t be replicated in Minnesota. Any of the number of ball-handlers the Wolves have should able to find him for this open look.
This one shows not only Covington moving to find an open area with a good passing lane, but it also shows Saric’s ability to put the ball on the floor, find the open guy, and make the correct pass. A Rose-Saric pick-and-roll could be something that the Wolves could turn to in the near future. Having a stretch-four like Saric that can do things like this could really open up Minnesota’s offense.
The Wolves are ninth in the NBA in pace to date, which isn’t bad at all, but if shots like these are started to be incorporated more, that ranking could be on the rise soon.
Like Covington, the majority of Saric’s shots are spot up 3-pointers. He’s capable of doing more than that, without question. He possesses a very unique skill set that can help the Wolves expand their horizons offensively. That assist to Covington is just one of the ways he can be a help.
Spotting up from deep will certainly be part of his new job, however.
His threat from deep and passing ability also opens up his ability to cut to the rim, as he does below.
Saric has enough gravity here that he draws two defenders to try and close out on his shot. He recognizes that it isn’t a good shot, finds an open teammate and is able to relocate himself on a cut to the rim for the easy finish. That’s something the Wolves should be able to capitalize on.
What these two do in Minnesota won’t exactly replicate the jobs they had in Philadelphia. The system that the Sixers run is very different than that of the Wolves, considering two of their starters in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are incredibly hesitant to shoot from deep.
That could be a welcome change for this pair. The Wolves will be able to employ five-man lineups that include five legitimate threats from deep. That means more space for driving and dishing as well as more shots open from behind the arc.
Obviously, this has just included offense, but it’s certainly worth noting that including Covington and rookie Josh Okogie in the same lineup would give the team two legitimate wing defenders. Covington was a first-team All-Defensive selection last season and instantly becomes the best player on that side of the court for the Wolves. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that he’s an upgrade over Butler in that aspect.
Covington being an elite level defender is a welcome change for a team that’s currently the worst defensive team in the NBA. No where to go but up, it would seem.
Time will tell whether this trade is a good one for the Wolves in terms of on the court success, but it certainly has the opportunity to help advance the offense in Minnesota.