In many ways, Malik Beasley represents the modern NBA. Seven years ago, a role player who shot 0-7 from the three would be benched. But in the 3-point era Stephen Curry ushered in from Davidson, coaches don’t reign your shooters in as often. Instead, coaches let them shoot out of their slump.
To the credit of head coach Chris Finch and his staff, the Minnesota Timberwolves managed Beasley well. The Wolves allowed Malik to get himself out of his slumps when the stakes were low. Then they shortened Beasley’s leash in the playoffs when every minute mattered.
The Wolves need to continue setting up Beasley for success on the court, though. Oddly enough, Beasley’s season seemed to some like it was a letdown. However, it wasn’t. He still shot 2.3% better than the average 3-point shooter through all of his struggles. His 38% 3-point shooting ranked him 3rd on the team. Beasley’s 3 point shooting is a great way to impact winning. The Wolves had a 25-17 record when Beasley shot above league average.
Beasley drives winning, and the Wolves should look to set him up more. Finding the most efficient ways to do that is an essential part of Minnesota’s success next season, just as it was this year. So how do the Wolves maximize Beasley’s strengths?
Beasley excels in the corner, specifically off of pin-down screens. His best zone was the left corner, where he shot 42%.
His connection with Jordan McLaughlin is another noticeable linchpin in Beasley’s game. McLaughlin finished third behind D’Angelo Russell and Patrick Beverley in assisting Beasley’s shots this year while only playing roughly 500 of Beasley’s 2000 total minutes. Although the connection between these two players doesn’t really stand out on the stat sheet, the game tape reveals the true connection.
Earlier this season, I wrote about what was fueling McLaughlin’s historic 34-1 assist-to-turnover rate. The main factor was speed and rim pressure. Mclaughlin pressures an imposing center better than Russell. While DLo is able to hit stunning mid-range shots, McLaughlin loves to generate rim pressure.
Rim pressure is the key to Beasley’s connection to McLaughlin. Even though Beasley is a fantastic shooter, most NBA defenses will give up a 3-point attempt before allowing an uncontested layup. With a player with court vision as elite as J-Mac, his drives almost always lead to open threes for corner shooters.
A Malik Beasley who is knocking down open shots should also help cure some of Karl-Anthony Towns‘ double-team problems. Although Towns is a generational talent, you can’t just leave shooters like Malik open.
When a player like Towns gets doubled as much as he does, it has the potential to stall an offense. A concept Wolves fans are surely familiar with, especially in the fourth quarter. The Wolves have to find a way to alleviate Towns’ struggle; the solution is Malik Beasley. When defenses have to worry about shooters like Beasley, they can’t double Towns nearly as much. And when they do, shots like the ones in the clips above happen.
Malik needs to get himself open as well. His movement off the ball is already extremely active, something he focused on this offseason. When he moves off the ball, he sets himself up for more open looks, which, in theory, result in more shots made.
Beasley is also a fantastic spot-up shooter, shooting 38% from the field, his best percentage in any zone.
The problem occurs when the Wolves look for Beasley in these types of sets, get the open shot, and he can’t hit them. Although allowing your shooters to shoot is the best way to handle a slump, the Wolves can’t afford to let Beasley shoot his way out of slumps so often next season.
The Western Conference is stacked. Almost every game next season will be a must-win. Beasley needs to produce somewhere else on the court to stay on the court through his struggles.
Finch believed Beasley was providing good defense throughout the year. It was the main reason he stayed on the floor through some of his slumps. Beasley prides himself on his defense, saying, “[It’s] just [about] giving a shit. [In the] beginning of the season, I was just trying to get back in shape. Now I’m focused on winning the game.”
No matter what, Malik Beasley will affect the game. If he’s shooting well, he’ll launch the Wolves into success. If he’s not shooting well, it should be important to him to play high-level defense to stay in the rotation. Regardless, Beasley is an incredibly valuable player in today’s league.