It’s a little more than a week into the NBA preseason, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have managed to remain undefeated after three contests. From the much improved defensive effort shown by rising star Anthony Edwards to the highly desired leadership brought on by veteran point guard Patrick Beverley, there’s a lot to be excited about for Minnesota fans. However, there has been a glaring negative: Malik Beasley’s level of play has been anything but fun to watch.
Now let me be clear, a player’s performance during the preseason is hardly ever a good indicator of how well they will play the regular season. Take a look back at Jarrett Culver during the 2020-21 preseason for proof. But so far, Beasley has looked like a shell of the former 2-guard who was able to put up over 19 points per game on 44/39/85 shooting splits just a season ago.
According to RealGM.com, after the first three games of the Timberwolves’ 2021-22 NBA preseason, Beasley is averaging:
- 20.9 minutes per game (third-highest on the team)
- 7.0 points per game (eighth)
- 40% from the field (14th)
- 10% from beyond the arc (15th)
To better showcase where Beasley stands shooting from beyond the arc, fellow Wolves teammate Josh Okogie — who is far from being considered a league-average marksman — is currently shooting 50% from deep, albeit he has only attempted four threes total. But if that’s not telling enough of how poorly Malik has shot from 3-point land, the area of the floor where he should earn his living, preseason legend JARRETT CULVER has hit a whopping 33% (2-of-6) of his 3-pointers with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Don’t get me wrong, Beasley is not the only member of the pack who is struggling with outside shooting. Just look at backup big man Naz Reid, who is currently shooting an abysmal 18% (2-of-10) from deep. Hell, even Karl-Anthony Towns, who is widely believed to be the best shooting big man in today’s game, has only been able to knock down 25% of his threes in the last nine days. These numbers could mean that MB’s recent in-game blunders are simply a result of being a bit out of shape. Typically, most players at the beginning of an NBA season are.
However, unlike most other players in the league who come into October breathing a bit harder than usual after a few down and backs, Beasley’s lack of conditioning is more than likely attributed to his time away from the team towards the end of last season. Remember, he had a hamstring injury and a court-mandated, um, stay-at-home order.
The problem with Malik’s poor play in the preseason is that his primary job is to be able to catch, shoot, and knockdown 3-pointers consistently. He’s not a good defender. He’s not even a good secondary ball handler. And because he excels most in transition, he is often out of place to grab and secure defensive rebounds. The question that needs to be asked is just how responsible Beasley is for his lackluster play on both ends of the court?
Looking back at last year, Beasley was a regular starter when available. Beasley has come off the pine twice in Minnesota’s first three games, once as the first off the bench and the other being the second, and started one game. These roles are not all that different from one another. However, determining Beasley’s fit in the rotation has been difficult throughout his career. While playing under Mike Malone with the Denver Nuggets, Beasley’s talents were masked by Denver’s many talented wings. The result? Low minutes per game and several DNPs.
After being acquired by Minnesota via trade, he swiftly became a fringe starter before the league being shut down due to COVID-19. And yet, even after being a competent shooting guard for nearly six years, his role is still as undefined as ever.
Malik received his first start of the preseason on Monday night. It felt like once he was announced as a starter, he would try and showcase to the coaching staff why he should never have been removed from the starting lineup in the first place. Yet, he only attempted two shots in his 23 minutes of playing time. And unlike in Friday’s win against his former team, Beasley looked uninterested in doing all of the little things that allowed him to still be somewhat effective in the game, such as cutting to the basket and getting to the foul line.
Understandably, Finch is experimenting with various lineups right now. With the development of players on last year’s roster and the addition of others, it may be in the team’s best interest to have Beasley somewhere in the 6-8 range in the rotation. But, for someone who has had as much going on outside the game of basketball, he may need a defined role, whether it be as a regular starter or the sixth/seventh man in the rotation.
It’s still far too early to say that these games will be of any substance a month from now. But it is something to monitor as the regular season inches closer.