The NBA season is pandemic-riddled again, and it has thrown everyone into the grinder. Every player has to step up and pull their weight when given playing time. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ depth players need to make the most of their opportunities with all five starters out.
Malik Beasley is chief among them. However, Beasley is enduring a rough spell despite receiving many chances to be a focal point of the offense.
Beasley showed promise immediately after the Wolves traded for him. He went from getting a DNPs as a bench player to putting up 20 points a night in 14 starts with the Wolves before the pandemic ended their season. The former Denver Nuggets wing made a great impression with the new-look Wolves post-trade deadline, enough to bring him back on a 4-year, $60 million contract extension.
It has been a rocky road since then, though.
It’s been a hectic year for Beasley. He had legal troubles, a suspension, and an injury that shut him down for the final 22 games of last season. While the start of his Timberwolves career was tremendous, putting up huge scoring numbers and showed why he deserved that extension as a shooter and scorer around Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell. He stepped up and hit shots when KAT and DLo were injured and Ant was adjusting to the league. He set the standard that he would be willing to take and make big shots when they are needed.
Beasley’s exceptional footwork was much needed, especially to get quick shots up in the corners. But his play regressed after the 12-game suspension and his hamstring injury. Not to mention, he only played six games under Chris Finch last year. But even when Beasley’s play was at its lowest point, his contract looked reasonable. He dovetailed with his teammates as a starter and off the bench.
The Struggles Have Continued This Season
This year has been Beasley’s worst statistical season. Every aspect of his play has declined from last year. Most shooters are inconsistent by nature, and even the most players efficient in the league are going to have off nights. But what separates those players is they can pick it up with other facets of their game, something Malik struggles with.
Beasley has also struggled to adapt as a bench player. He was productive as a starter and needs to acclimate the rhythm of the game as soon as he gets on the floor. Beasley looks like he will be the sixth man this year as the Wolves tried to piece together a balanced lineup around offensive counterparts.
He was also limited in his ability to focus on basketball because he had to serve jail time and parole. As a result, Beasley wasn’t in playing shape at the beginning of the year. His effort and confidence were still there, but it’s hard to back it up when he’s not delivering as an effective sixth man.
Beasley’s regression is most evident in his inability to make a big shot, and his lack of focus at times. Beasley hasn’t been the same player he was in the 51 games he played as a first- and second-year player.
The Wolves have tried to accommodate him. They’ve switched rotations and plugged him into the starting lineup, but he still has kept relatively the same percentages. Beasley’s having a down year by every metric, including usage, shot attempts, points, and minutes. He made his money as a 3-point specialist, and now he’s a below-average shooter.
How Can A Balance Be Reached?
Before jumping to conclusions on his career trajectory, remember that Beasley has three years left on his current contract and a team option on the final season. If he continues to struggle going forward, it becomes an expiring deal and should be movable if the Wolves need to part ways with him. Other players like Jaylen Nowell have picked up duties as the sharpshooter when they’ve gotten minutes.
It’s getting to the point where giving Nowell some of Beasley’s minutes in the second half of the season may make sense. Doing so may motivate Beasley while rewarding Nowell for his recent play and ability to fill the shooting needs. Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley are going to need playing time to keep the defense afloat.
Therefore, when Malik gets playing time, he must make the most of it.
Finch runs plenty of sets for him, whether that is him snaking corner to corner, or reading an off-ball screen and his defender and finding the open spot. If he at least is a general scoring threat, it will take the stress off KAT, Ant, and DLo to operate. Lineups surrounding him with the best players are the best way to keep him on the floor until he hits his shots.
The fate of his season and future is in his hands to get back on track because it will significantly impact winning. If he wants to keep his current role and stick with this group, shots need to be hit consistently from a game-to-game basis. He’s shown sharpshooter potential and that he’s an excellent fit next to others. Beasley should eventually return to form.