Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 things to be thankful for this Christmas

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 28: Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 28: Josh Okogie #20 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
5 of 5
Minnesota Timberwolves, Dario Saric
SACRAMENTO, CA – DECEMBER 12: Dario Saric #36 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

1. Dario Saric

Dario Saric was acquired from Philadelphia in the Jimmy Butler trade and immediately supplanted offseason signing Anthony Tolliver in the rotation, appearing in 18 of his 19 games off the bench so far for the Wolves.

While veteran Taj Gibson remains the regular starter, the minutes split has been close to even since Saric joined the Wolves, and for good reason.

Saric was a well-known prospect entering the 2014 NBA Draft but slid to the No. 12 pick in part due to signability concerns. Indeed, he didn’t come over to the United States until 2016 and had two strong seasons with the 76ers, including becoming a regular starter during the 2017-18 team’s run to the second round of the playoffs.

There are plenty of reasons why Saric is No. 1 on this list, but let’s start with the fact that he’s playing arguably the best basketball of his young career in the 19 games that he’s been with the Wolves.

Saric has an assist rate that is outpacing his own turnover rate (9.8 to 9.5 percent), which almost certainly won’t hold up over a long period of time but shows just how valuable he can be as a playmaker. He’s attempting 45.6 percent of his field goals from beyond the arc and hitting at a 36.1 percent clip.

For his career, Saric attempts 68.7 percent of his shots from within three feet of the rim or from 3-point range. Despite the Wolves’ recent issues as a team when it comes to shooting from long-range, Saric has upped that number to 78.5 percent — a breath of fresh air for a team that too often is stuck in the Dark Ages on offense.

Nearly as refreshing as his offensive versatility and efficiency is Saric’s defense, which is instinctive and impressive in guarding both bigger power forwards and more athletic wings on opposing teams. He fits Thibodeau’s scheme perfectly and plays with the effort necessary to be successful.

And, ladies and gentlemen, Saric is only 24 years old, is under contract for two more years on his rookie contract, and will be eligible for an extension beginning next summer. His game is a near-perfect complement to Towns, and Saric’s ceiling remains at an All-Star level.

Expect the Wolves to try their best to move Gorgui Dieng‘s contract either prior to February’s trade deadline or over the summer. If that fails, it would make sense for the Wolves to look at moving Wiggins in order to free up cap space for Saric, who is already a better all-around player and has a ceiling that certainly feels more attainable at this point.

Next. 3 potential trades for T.J. Warren. dark

Saric is a huge part of this team’s future and will be the starting power forward in the fall of 2019. The upside is real, and Wolves fans should be excited about the frontcourt of the future at Target Center.