Timberwolves

Jaylen Nowell Can Offer More Than Malik Beasley Did Last Year

Photo Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

If anyone on the Minnesota Timberwolves has room to grow into their future role, it’s fourth-year guard Jaylen Nowell. Even before the Rudy Gobert trade where Tim Connelly dealt Malik Beasley as part of the package, Chris Finch had already said they need to get Nowell more opportunities this season.

Finch’s statement seemed to hold limited stock at the time. He has had praise for Nowell, but he could never find a consistent role for him throughout the season. Finch typically plugged Nowell in whenever there were injuries or in December during the Wolves’ COVID breakout when he was able to shine. He also saw very limited minutes in the Memphis Grizzlies playoff series because Finch prioritized other players such as Jordan McLaughlin and Beasley more. Now that Minnesota has traded Beasley, Nowell should be the most significant benefactor. There are a lot of minutes available for a scoring wing off the bench.

Minnesota gave Beasley free reign in the offense after they traded for him in 2020. He averaged 19.8 points over his first season because Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell were injured. Despite having to fit around others, he still found his way, flourishing around the arc. Beasley shot 74% of his shots from 3 and became a valid volume shooter.

It was excellent for the team making 8.1 of his 8.1 attempts per game from 3 this past season, offering the ability to come around screens and use his footwork to provide spacing.

Trading Beasley leaves a lot of space for a sixth man to make an impact off the bench. Malik had a 17.5% usage rate, in the 60th percentile of the league, per Cleaning the Glass. He was also 2nd on the team in 3-point attempts, tied for 1st in 3-pointers made, and 4th on the team in field-goal attempts.

Nowell, 23, has a similar skill set and size. However, he has a lot of room to grow because of his opportunity to play more minutes consistently. Nowell has shot 36.5% from three over the past two seasons and 39.4% this past season on 2.6 attempts. But he offers more than Beasley off the dribble in the mid-range. Having multiple potential scoring outcomes is where he flourished, hitting challenging contested shots and offering more rim pressure than Malik.

Nowell is a more dangerous scorer than Beasley because he’s a threat from all over the court. We saw Malik have games where he was absolutely firing threes and hitting them. But he also had games where it wasn’t falling. Nowell will have more to lean on if one facet of his game isn’t clicking on one night, allowing him to continue to have an impact.

This chart above is an example of how they ranked across each range, Malik having much more volume than Nowell, nearly doubling his attempts. If you consider that Nowell is going to increase his usage, the efficiency can easily match what Beasley left this last season. The graphic below tells us that Nowell needs more reps. Green means league-average, and red means below-average.

We only saw Nowell play 15.7 minutes per game compared to Malik’s 25.0. When you compare their statistics per 36 minutes, you can get more of a sense of how well Nowell did in his limited time.

It will not be as easy as simply plugging him in and expecting the same. But where Beasley was a pure three-point shooter, Nowell can offer more as a secondary ball-handler, movement shooter, and overall scoring threat.

Nowell still has a lot to prove to show that he can have the same impact as Beasley these last 2.5 seasons. But he has all of the tools to offer success with the bench unit and solidify himself as a part of the core as he heads into unrestricted free agency.

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