A buddy of mine, who is my age (28), texted me the other day. “I’ll be honest,” he said. “I never thought I’d see the T-Wolves 2 games above .500 again in my lifetime.”
After Sunday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons, the Minnesota Timberwolves sit a whole three (!!!) games above .500. Quality performances from franchise pillars Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell helped lift the team in yet another “should-win” game. Detroit was missing Cade Cunningham, sure. But this was still a game that the “Old Wolves” would have found a way to lose.
That was the sentiment, according to Malik Beasley, at least. When asked whether or not Minnesota has been learning anything as a team, Beasley said in his post-game interview that “last year we would have lost these two games [to the Pistons].” He’s not wrong.
Admittedly at risk of beating a dead horse, it is fair to say that this Timberwolves team is different this year. There have been plenty of catalysts that have aided in sustaining this winning formula. But Beasley’s ascension lately has picked up some of the slack that has been missing all season long. When Beasley is going, this current iteration of the Wolves is nearly unstoppable.
So, is it worth it to keep him around? Or should Sachin Gupta trade him now while his value is high?
There is no question that Beasley has been a shell of the 20 PPG, 40% 3-point shooting player who signed a 4-year, $60 million contract last season. He is averaging 12.1 points per game while shooting 34.8% from three this season. Both are lows since Minnesota traded for him, and most of the season has been frustrating. Beasley offers little outside of his shooting, and he had appeared to be on-track to lose his spot in the regular rotation to a rapidly ascending Jaylen Nowell.
However, the self-proclaimed “hypeman for our team” has recently come into his own. In 10 games since Jan. 16th, Beasley has been shooting 38.5% from three per Cleaning the Glass. His corner-three percentage is 35% in those games, but he’s been hitting 40% of his non-corner three-point shots. Those numbers should be even higher after Sunday night’s win over the Pistons, where Beasley shot 5-9 from 3 (55.6%) and had 20 points in 22 minutes off the bench.
Beasley shot 34% from three in the 42 games before Minnesota’s win over Detroit. It is no question that the Wolves’ offense has come to life when Beasley started to shoot the ball effectively. The Timberwolves pay Beasley to shoot the ball. When he can’t do that, his 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game on the season do not do much to drive winning. If his shot is falling, it eases the burden for just about everybody else on the team. Beasley’s defense is suspect and almost nonexistent. But when his shot is falling, it masks the other apparent deficiencies in his game.
Beasley’s resurgence has put the Wolves in a predicament. Like Gersson Rossas, Gupta has not been shy about articulating his desire to make trades to improve the team. Just about everybody’s speculative board has Beasley as a prime candidate to get moved in exchange for a complementary role player.
Sure, Minnesota could trade Beasley now. That would not be wise, though.
Moving Beasley for an unproven fit would be a significant risk at this juncture. The Timberwolves have lacked continuity recently, and jettisoning a pivotal role player and personality would likely not sit well with many of the team’s veterans. It is a novel idea to bring in another big to complement Towns and take away some minutes from Naz Reid. But the safest bet for the future would be to ride with Beasley — especially if any theoretical deal involved future draft capital in exchange.
Standing pat at Thursday’s trade deadline won’t generate buzz, but it is the right move. Minnesota’s past has shown that mortgaging future draft assets only for one- or two-year rentals does not work out. This team finally has a cohesive youth movement that appears to like playing with each other and is finding ways to win consistently. I say this begrudgingly. However, this team cannot play at its best without his shooting prowess. So long as Beasley can shoot consistently, he has a critical role on this team.
As Beasley grows into his role on the team, he’s also developing into a critical voice and role model. He’s played every game this year and showcased his durability. Beasley is instilling confidence on the bench, recently saying that the Wolves have the “best bench in the league.” He is developing into the exact sort of reliable player and personality that every team in contention wants on their bench. And for that, he has more than earned the right to stick around. Here’s to hoping that’s the right decision for the Timberwolves.