Timberwolves

Finch Hasn't Found the Right Player To Replace Beverley In the Starting Lineup

Photo Credit: David Berding (USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Beverley has been a huge part of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ success thus far. The box-score numbers won’t blow anyone away: He averages eight points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. But his unassailable effort on the floor has been an essential piece of Minnesota’s puzzle. A deeper look at the numbers will tell you that he has unquestionably been one of their best players this year. He is a top-three Timberwolf in VORP, BPM, and Win Shares. He’s been shooting the ball well and, according to this guy on Twitter, he has been the best point-of-attack defender in the league.

I have no idea what D-DRIP is, but Jim Petersen seems to think it’s a good thing. Wolves fans don’t need to turn to the numbers to know how big of an impact that Beverley has made on the team. He’s brought an energy that has charged up the rest of the squad, specifically the starting lineup. D’Angelo Russell, Beverley, Anthony Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Karl-Anthony Towns have played 91 minutes together. They have a plus-45 point differential in those minutes, the best of any lineup that has played at least 10 minutes together.

Beverley left Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat with an injury. Chris Finch has tried Jaden McDaniels and Taurean Prince in the starting lineup to replace him, but neither has filled the hole that Beverley left. Prince has been minus-19 as a starter. McDaniels has been neutral as a starter, but he is minus-26 without the blowout victory against the Houston Rockets.

Beverley will be out for a couple of weeks, so the Wolves will need to find a solution to stay afloat while he’s on the mend. Beverley provided high-quality defense, 3-point shooting, took some reps initiating the offense, and gave the offense another option to attack off the dribble. There’s not necessarily anyone else on this Wolves roster who can offer that same complement of skills.

McDaniels provides high-quality defense and can knock down looks from the perimeter. But he struggles to create off the dribble, and relying on him as the primary point-of-attack defender doesn’t highlight the switchability that makes him so unique. Prince is a solid defender, but he can’t be matched up against lead guards.

We’ve also seen Josh Okogie in the starting lineup. He’s got some ability to penetrate off the dribble and can defend the perimeter. The problem with Okogie is that opposing teams don’t respect his perimeter shooting. Both Prince and McDaniels are shooting below 30% from three this season. However, neither has a reputation as a poor shooter. Unfortunately, Okogie now has three seasons of evidence proving that leaving him open for a shot from beyond the arc is good for your defense. The floor shrinks with Okogie and Vanderbilt on the court, making it easier to double Towns or pack the paint against an Anthony Edwards drive.

Will Finch try to insert a new player into the starting lineup? The first player that comes to mind is Malik Beasley. He’s started to find his stroke over the last seven games, shooting 36.7% from three. It’s no coincidence that his improved shooting has aligned with Minnesota’s 6-1 run over those games. His accuracy from range is a vital component of the Wolves’ offense.

Beasley has played 55 possessions, with the starters outscoring their opponents by 19.8 points per 100 possessions. This lineup is missing that Beverley defense, but adding Malik to the mix gives the Wolves an added dose of firepower and frenetic energy that might be the key to holding out until Bev comes back. But yet again, there is a glaring issue with inserting Beasley into the starting line.

Beasley is the leading scorer off the bench with 10.4 points per game. There isn’t an obvious answer for who will pick up the slack from the bench unit. Naz Reid can put the ball in the basket, but his minutes are limited behind Towns. Jaylen Nowell can be a flame thrower, but he hasn’t been able to find rotation minutes. This is a tough predicament for Finch.

The emergence of Leandro Bolmaro may be the solution that the Wolves have been looking for. Theoretically, he can provide all of the things that Beverley can: defense, shooting, and secondary ball-handling. Of course, inserting Bolmaro into the starting lineup or relying on him to lead the bench unit is a tough ask for a rookie. Regardless of the direction the Wolves decide to go, someone has got to step up in Beverley’s absence.

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Photo Credit: David Berding (USA TODAY Sports)

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