As if the 7-26 Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t have enough working against them already, Minnesota was dealt another blow on Thursday with a 12-game suspension of their talented guard Malik Beasley.
The NBA showed that they do not condone any violent behavior with a firm ruling on the 24-year-old, who pled guilty to a felony charge in late September.
With the recent loss of star guard D’Angelo Russell (knee surgery), the recent addition of head coach Chris Finch, and now Beasley’s suspension, the Timberwolves find themselves in a challenging position 33 games into the 72-game season.
Despite the multiple setbacks the young Minnesota franchise is currently facing, this situation could very well be a blessing in disguise. They find themselves in a familiar predicament where losing benefits them moving forward.
In the Russell trade last season, Minnesota sent a protected top-3 first-round pick (along with Andrew Wiggins) to the Golden State Warriors, meaning the Warriors receive the first-round pick UNLESS it’s within the first three picks of the draft. If the ping-pong balls fall in Minnesota’s favor with a top-3 pick, they keep it and then send an unprotected 2022 first-rounder to Golden State.
The NBA is a business, and the Wolves can’t ever say they want to lose to keep that lottery pick. But abso-freaking-lutely they wish to retain that draft pick and select a potential franchise-changer in the 2021 draft. Minnesota has the worst record in the league, for heaven’s sake. Losing out on that top-3 pick would be devastating to a team in desperate need of some star power.
Another silver lining is that without Beasley and Russell for at least the next four weeks, the “young pups” on the roster will have a chance to grow and shine. And to be clear, Minnesota has been competitive lately. Sure, they have lost their last 10 of 11 games, but nine of those 10 were single-digit losses.
With Beasley out, the question is: Who’s going to score in his absence?
With two of Minnesota’s Big Three out, the offense could look pretty out of sorts. They likely will. But Karl-Anthony Towns has found his stroke after returning from a wrist injury, averaging 22.7 points per game on 54% shooting in his last nine games. However, outside of Towns, finding a consistent scoring option over the next month will be a challenge.
Russell and Beasley combined for roughly 40 points per game. With both sidelined, it’s time for Anthony Edwards to step up and fill the scoring void.
The man is fearless. Edwards is averaging 14 shot attempts per game, which includes roughly six 3-point attempts. His aggressiveness is welcome; the last thing you want from a talented rookie is a lack of confidence. Whether the 19-year-old has hit three shots in a row or been on a cold streak, he’s going to stay aggressive and seize an opportunity when it presents itself.
The next step Edwards needs to take in his progression is in scoring efficiency. He’s shooting 37% from the field and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc. While that’s a good start, improving those numbers by just five percent would be game-changing.
Minnesota also has to fill a vacant role in their starting lineup. Lately, their starting five have been Ricky Rubio (7.7 ppg), Beasley (20.5 ppg), Edwards (14.3), Jarred Vanderbilt, (6.0), and KAT (22.5).
It will be interesting to see who Finch decides to roll out in Saturday’s matchup against the Washington Wizards.
The Timberwolves currently sit among the worst eight teams in the NBA in total points per game and total points allowed per game. Simply put, they are not great on either end of the floor. Because Finch has historically run high-paced, high-scoring offenses, look for Jaylen Nowell to fill in while Beasley serves his suspension.
The second-year player out of the University of Washington has been an aggressive shooter, averaging nine PPG this season on 43.8 percent shooting and showing that he can consistently score when given the opportunity.
A larger, more defensive-minded guard like Josh Okogie could take the vacant starting role. But considering his emphasis on offense, Finch will probably lean towards more of a scoring threat to space the floor.
Regardless of who starts in Beasley’s absence, one thing is for sure. The next month of Timberwolves basketball is going to be veeerrrrry interesting (insert cringe emoji here).