Minnesota Timberwolves Player Review: Dario Saric

DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Dario Saric #36 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 10: Dario Saric #36 of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets. Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Dario Saric was a key piece of the haul the Minnesota Timberwolves received when they shipped All-Star Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia. While he showed flashes, his first season with the Wolves was marked by inconsistency.

It wasn’t that long ago that Dario Saric was a coveted early lottery pick in the NBA draft.

Now, as the Minnesota Timberwolves power forward of the present and future, Saric will have the chance to play for a contract extension alongside All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.

Saric and wing Robert Covington were the co-headliners of the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers in November, with fringe pieces Jerryd Bayless joining the Wolves and former first-round pick Justin Patton, who has since been released, joining Butler in Philly.

As a premiere “3-and-D” player, Covington was the quintessential win-now piece in the trade. Saric, who was just 24 years old at the time of the trade, represented both the present and future.

Before the trade, Saric was a starter on the 76ers team that made it to the second round of the playoffs in 2018, and had started the first 13 games of the season for the Sixers before the trade. When he came to Minnesota, then-coach Tom Thibodeau left Saric on the bench in favor of veteran Taj Gibson, who was coming off a career year playing next to Towns.

Saric was up and down early as he looked to find his footing, but had a handful of games that showed his promise as a modern stretch-four who also has the ability to pass and handle the ball a bit in space. He can score inside and outside, and should be a near-seamless fit alongside Towns.

Outside of a spot-start in Phoenix in December when Gibson was absent for personal reasons, Saric didn’t join the starting lineup until Feb. 11, roughly one month after Thibodeau was fired and replaced by interim head coach Ryan Saunders.

Saric dropped 19 points and eight rebounds on the Clippers in a win on that day, and the Wolves won their first three contests with Saric as a starter.

But then, four straight games with a single-digit scoring total. In fact, Saric wouldn’t score more than 13 points in a game again until March 21, and his overall numbers as a starter from Feb. 11 to the end of the season were just 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. But the shooting line clocked in at .462/.391/.875 — a solid line that should have warranted more shots.

At times, Saric was too hesitant with the ball on the perimeter. But at other times, the high-low chemistry between Saric and Towns was practically unstoppable.

New front office boss Gersson Rosas and Saunders — or whomever he ultimately decides to hire as head coach — will need to dedicate time this offseason to figuring out how to unlock Saric. The talent is there, and, occasionally, the production is too.

dark. Next. A look at the Timberwolves' summer ahead

If Saric progresses as he should, he’ll receive a healthy extension and be the Wolves second or third star moving forward in support of Towns. And if Saric reaches his potential, then the Wolves will have a shot at the best frontcourt duo in the entire NBA.