Robert Covington is not bragging when he says the deal that brought him and Dario Saric to Minnesota has given the Timberwolves more versatility.
Covington was talking about this Wednesday morning, after the team’s shootaround for their game with Denver at Target Center. And while the uptick on defense has been noted since his arrival, he was talking about offense.
“We’re able to be on different spots on the floor, give guys outlets to open the court a little better,” he said. “That’s what we’ve added to this team.”
In a word: spacing.
The Wolves are spacing the floor well, and it shows in the team’s three-point shooting. Minnesota is taking pretty much the same number of three-pointers per game (29.7) as it did before Covington and Saric entered the rotation (29.6). But made threes and shooting percentage beyond the arc are both up.
Before the trade the Wolves were 20th in attempts per game, 11th in makes (11.1) and sixth in percentage (37.3). In the past three games before Wednesday, they rank fifth in makes (12.7) and third in percentage (42.7).
And while Derrick Rose’s three-point renaissance has helped, as has the range of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, Covington and Saric are leading the way. In the three games before Wednesday, the Wolves made 38 three-pointers, with Covington and Saric accounting for 17 of them. Covington has hit 11 of 21, Saric six of 14.
“I think it’s hard to take a lot away from the beginning of the season, because the number of players that we had out,” Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But I like the threes we are taking. And I think we can improve in that area as well. But we made a big jump there.”
The Wolves have a way to go before they rival the Houston Rockets in long-range shooting ability, but the team’s efficiency from three is an encouraging sign.
“You’ve got guys like [Towns] and Wiggins who draw a lot of attention,” Covington said. “[Jeff] Teague. The more they operate and the teams guard them, it opens the floor and allows ’em to kick out. And the guys are very willing passers.”
Saric said the addition of perimeter shooting will help Wiggins and, especially, Rose.
“At this moment, we are helping,” he said. “I hope we continue to play like this.”
The timing of the trade, with the Wolves about to start a five-game homestand, was fortunate, Covington and Saric said.
With the team at home for nearly two weeks and no back-to-back games, there was opportunity to practice and get comfortable with their new city off the court.
But it’s still a process. Saric said he’d found a place to live, but Covington still is looking for something permanent. His lease in Philly and the process of finding a mover to bring his stuff to Minnesota means he probably won’t be totally settled in until December.
“I’m starting to get acclimated,” Covington said. “I’m starting to get a feel for the city. [The trade] definitely came at the right time.”
The Wolves made just nine of 32 three-point shots Wednesday (28 percent).
• Asked what he was thankful for, Thibodeau said: “Everything. You know, we’re all blessed to be doing what we do. And so, when you think about the challenges you have, you really don’t have any. So it’s all the things, the people you’re around, your family, all the things that you’ve been blessed with. So it’s a time to reflect.”
• Thibodeau said he didn’t ask Keita Bates-Diop to work on anything in particular when he was sent down to the Iowa Wolves of the G League. It’s all about minutes. “He’s done a really good job, we love him,” Thibodeau said. “He’s young, he’s learning, and we look at points in the season where we can get him playing time. So we’ll get him a few games, and we’ll get him right back.”