In a topsy-turvy season when it comes to injuries, it’s been a while since the Minnesota Timberwolves have had a fully healthy roster.
Jaylen Nowell has missed the last 10 games with a leg injury. Jarrett Culver missed eight straight before being shut down for the season last week. But most importantly, the Minnesota Timberwolves are dearly missing the contributions from Malik Beasley.
The 24-year-old sharpshooter has appeared in just four of the team’s last 33 games. First, he was suspended for 12 games due to a well-documented offseason incident in which Beasley pointed a gun at a family in a car outside of his house. Currently, Beasley is rehabbing from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the last 17 games and counting.
Many assumed his season was over, but not so fast Timberwolves fans. According to Chris Finch, Beasley might be on the verge of a late-season comeback.
When he’s on the court, Beasley has been everything the Timberwolves could have hoped for when they signed him to a 4-year, $60 million contract during the offseason. In 37 games, Beasley is averaging 19.6 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists on 44/39.9/85 shooting. He was Minnesota’s best offensive player until Karl-Anthony Towns returned after his COVID diagnosis in February.
With just six games left in the season, the question becomes: Should the Wolves bring Beasley back to gain more continuity among the starters, or shut him down and run it back next season?
The sentiment around the team over the last 10 games, in which the Wolves are 6-4, has been clear. The Timberwolves will not be tanking and are prioritizing building a solid foundation to build on next season over willfully losing for the best odds at retaining their top-three protected pick in the NBA Draft.
This is the part of every Wolves article posted until the NBA Draft Lottery commences on June 22, where we have to mention that the Wolves have at best a 40.1 percent chance of keeping the pick they sent alongside Andrew Wiggins to the Golden State Warriors in the D’Angelo Russell trade last year. With every win at the end of the season, Minnesota runs the chance of lowering their odds thanks to the overt tanking efforts of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic.
Currently, Minnesota has the third-worst record in the league and is in line for the best odds at keeping the pick. However, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thunder, and Magic sit just a game ahead of Minnesota in the standings. The worst-case scenario if the Wolves pass all three teams will shrink their odds at keeping the pick from 40.1 percent to 31.8 percent.
That doesn’t seem to phase Finch’s squad. They recently had their first four-game win streak since 2018, and Beasley’s return would be a boon for an offense that already ranks third in scoring over the last 15 games. But that doesn’t mean he should come back.
The importance of the final stretch of games is to see how the trio of Towns, Russell, and Anthony Edwards can play together going forward. They’re the core trio that president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas has invested heavily in over the last two seasons. As good as he’s been on the court, Beasley is far less important to the future of this team than the three stars. He probably also slots behind surprise rookie contributor Jaden McDaniels.
Rosas and Finch know exactly how Beasley can impact the team through his 3-point shooting and floor spacing. He’s more or less a one-trick pony who will fit in on offense nicely no matter who he plays with. No need to risk further injury to get a look at him tossing up corner 3s. We know what he brings to the table.
The real question then is what Beasley’s future is with the Timberwolves? During this more competitive stretch, the Towns/Edwards/Russell Big 3 is proving it can play .500 basketball with Beasley on the sidelines. With a possibility of adding another elite young wing with a top-three pick, Beasley may have already played his last game for the Timberwolves.
His outstanding production on what now seems like a team-friendly contract makes Beasley Minnesota’s most tradable asset that it would be willing to part with. Rosas could lure a much bigger fish in return for Beasley and other assets than he could with Ricky Rubio’s bloated contract or Culver’s inability to play good basketball.
The main issue when it comes to moving Beasley is his legal troubles. Teams may shy away from talks involving Beasley as he will serve 120 days in jail or on house arrest stemming from his felony charge in the offseason. It’s a big deal, and other GMs might not be willing to part with decent pieces if they’re unsure of his future or have issues with his behavior.
If the Timberwolves try to move Beasley in the offseason, it will leave a huge shooting hole in the roster. Minnesota ranks 23rd in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. Nowell could be the prime candidate to eat up his minutes and add some much-needed shooting to the lineup. The second-year guard was hitting 40.2 percent of his 3s before a cold stretch over his last 12 games brought his season percentage down to 33.8.
McDaniels has also shown a proclivity to knock down the 3 in his rookie season, hitting 37 percent. However, the biggest contribution will come from the development of Edwards. The 19-year-old had had a love-hate with the 3-point line this season, but his shot is beginning to come around. In his last 10 games, Ant is knocking down 38.4 percent of his 8.6 3-point attempts per game. If he can continue to improve his stroke in the offseason and come out bombing 3s like “Houdini” next year, that makes Beasley more expendable.
Beasley has clearly shown why the Wolves brass gave him $60 million in the offseason. He’s a huge asset for the franchise moving forward. But it might be best for everyone to let him finish the season on the bench and give him time to get his body and personal life right in the offseason.