Timberwolves

Moving Patrick Beverley To the Starting Lineup Changed Everything

Photo Credit: Kiyoshi Mio (USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Beverley’s impact on the Minnesota Timberwolves was something that many of us saw coming the day they traded for him. Flipping Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangómez, who didn’t have a spot on the roster, was already enough for people to be convinced it was a good trade.

But Beverley’s defensive prowess and winning mentality were welcome on a team known for poor defense and losing. His impact was immediately felt on the court, especially when Chris Finch plugged him into the starting lineup.

The Wolves needed an on-ball defender who could go up against elite guards. Previously, they had turned to Josh Okogie or Jaden McDaniels for that task. By putting Pat Bev on the opponent’s best guards, Okogie and McDaniels are allowed to guard. As a result, the Wolves rank seventh in points per 100 possessions and first in the league in turnover percentage per Cleaning the Glass. The Pat Bev trade has already meaningfully upgraded the Wolves’ defense.

Starting Lineup vs. Bench

Finch has run Beverley with the starting lineup to maximize his impact and staggering D’Angelo Russell quickly to orchestrate the bench unit. He’s also replaced McDaniels with Jarred Vanderbilt in the starting lineup. The result? The Wolves are 5-2 since Beverley and Vanderbilt were moved to the starting lineup. Out of every five-man lineup in the league that has played over 50 minutes together, the Beverley-DLo-Ant-Vando-KAT lineup ranks first in the league in net rating.

Adding two defensive players to the starting lineup in Beverley and Russell gives Finch versatility and allows Russell to play more freelance off-ball instead of on-ball the entire game. Vanderbilt is much more of a pick-and-roll threat as a screener. Combined with Beverley’s crafty on-ball ability, both players bring more creativity and motion into the low-hanging offense.

The Wolves had a weak offensive game and average defensive results when Beverley was coming off the bench. Placing Okogie, McDaniels, or Taurean Prince in the starting lineup produced mediocre results. Each player was essentially exchangeable for the other.

Defensive Energy

Beverley is known for his chaotic defensive energy. It has been a key to him getting minutes to begin his career, and he used it to become a staple in teams’ rotations as he entered his prime. His high defensive motor was vital to making the playoffs in every single year of his career. He found his way into the starting lineups for the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. His impact was always shown in the intangibles and not on the stat sheet.

The Wolves have been playing better lately. Finch has begun to get his footing with rotations and allowing every player to be in a comfortable spot. Jaden’s fouling issues have been mitigated now that he’s on the bench, and DLo has done a great job being the focal point running with the bench unit. But ultimately, moving Beverley and Vanderbilt to the starting lineup has anchored the defensive end, allowing them to hold leads.

Beverley’s passionate defensive play has earned him a dirty player reputation around the league. Whether it was his beef with Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, he is always willing to play to his opponent’s standards and do what he can to win games. He is a player you hate to go up against but love to have on your side.

Clippers fans still are clamoring to get him back because of what he brought every night. For example, Pat Bev was always working his tail off even in Minnesota’s games where they came out flat earlier this year. Keeping him locked and loaded with the right lineups is the best way to unlock this Wolves defensive unit and keep their energy up.

This year, the Wolves have improved as Finch has tinkered with his scheme and fits for returning players on the defensive end. But you have to applaud what Beverley has done thus far.

Veteran Presence

The Wolves needed Beverley’s veteran presence. For instance, he’s constantly boosting a young team that occasionally lacks confidence.

Beverley’s efforts create a hungry roster and positive competitive atmosphere. They traded two disgruntled players for him. Juancho was upset by Minnesota’s decision to hold him out of the Olympics due to a shoulder injury. Culver is reticent by nature, wasn’t panning out, and needed a fresh start. Getting rid of two players who weren’t positively affecting the culture much for one who lives and breathes was a fantastic move.

Ed Davis was the known vet last season and barely saw the floor. As a floor general who consistently gets 20-plus minutes a night, Beverley can better impact the team’s approach to the game directly. Defensive energy and leadership are two things that can help the Wolves reach their goal of being a playoff team for the first time since 2017-18.

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Photo Credit: Kiyoshi Mio (USA TODAY Sports)

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