Saric playing more efficient since joining Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t exactly Timberpups anymore. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are well into their NBA careers at this point, while the Wolves’ lineup features seven players with 5-plus years of experience.

Welcome to the 2018-19 edition of the Young Wolves Tracker, formerly the Timberpups Tracker.

Each Thursday we’ll either track the progress of the Iowa Wolves players who might be of help to the Timberwolves in the future, or a current member of Minnesota’s roster. We’ll also give updates on the other young players from the previous week.

This is the 6th edition of the 2018-19 Young Wolves Tracker.

It’s been just over a month since Minnesota traded Jimmy Butler (and Justin Patton) to Philadelphia in exchange for Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

The Timberwolves have played 14 games with their new pieces. Despite a recent three-game skid, Minnesota’s improvement on both sides of the ball and increased effort is evident.

A big factor to that success has been Saric, who has stepped up his game since joining the Timberwolves.

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When looking at the numbers, Saric’s per-game stats haven’t changed much with his new team. He actually averages fewer points and rebounds per contest than he did in 13 games with Philadelphia, and his 10.8 points per game with the Timberwolves would be a career low. But take a closer look, and his efficiency has increased exponentially.

The 24-year-old is playing almost seven fewer minutes per game with the Timberwolves, and he’s simply doing more with his decreased time on the floor.

One of the most intriguing parts of Saric’s game is his ability to shoot from 3. He’s been significantly better from downtown with the Timberwolves, shooting at a 35.8 percent mark, which is still a few points shy of his career-best 39.3 clip last season.

He’s doing so while putting up fewer 3-pointers, too. In Philadelphia, 53 percent (5.4 per game) of Saric’s attempts from the field were 3s, while that number stands at 45.7 percent (3.8 per game) with the Wolves.

Saric has heated up from downtown of late, knocking down multiple 3s in five of his last seven games.

His improvement is even more evident when looking at advanced statistics.

When you stretch out his numbers per 36 minutes, Saric’s production has increased in points (13.1 to 16.6) and rebounds (7.8 to 8.6) with his new team.

His offensive rating has also been boosted from 98 in Philadelphia with 121 with the Wolves — not to mention growth in effective field-goal percentage, true shooting percentage and PER (player efficiency rating).

TEAM G MIN PPG REB FG% 3P% eFG% TS% PER
Sixers 13 30.5 11.1 6.6 36.4 30.0 44.3 49.6 8.3
Timberwolves 14 23.4 10.8 5.6 48.3 35.8 56.5 60.1 16.2

It’s been fun to watch Saric begin to gel with his new teammates. He and Karl-Anthony Towns seem to be getting in a groove, evident by a couple of dishes from Towns over the weekend.

WOLF TRACKS

— It’s been a rough road trip for the Timberwolves defense — opponents have scored at least 113 points in all three games. It continues a trend for the Wolves’ defense. At home, Minnesota has a 104.7 defensive rating, which ranks 10th in the NBA. But on the road that number balloons to 115.1, which comes in at 29th.

Tyus Jones scored just four points over the last three games. But he made his impact elsewhere, tallying eight rebounds, 12 assists and a steal.

— Andrew Wiggins was featured in our Wolves tracker last week, and he continued his high level of play on the road. He’s scored at least 20 points in all three games while shooting 50 percent from the field and averaging 4.3 rebounds per game.

Derrick Rose logged a season-high nine assists in the loss to Portland on Saturday.

— Second-round pick Keita Bates-Diop tallied his fourth double-double of the season in the Iowa Wolves’ 115-103 loss to Agua Caliente on Sunday. He leads the G League team in rebounding, averaging 9.5 per contest.

Jared Terrell, who signed a two-way contract with the Timberwolves over the summer, is shooting 3 of 22 (13.6 percent) from downtown over his last five G League games.