Look around the Target Center this season. Even the most ardent Minnesota Timberwolves fan will hardly recognize what’s happening. We haven’t seen an air and an edge to the Wolves since the Kevin Garnett era.
The culture of losing is slowly but surely changing, and the engine driving the cultural turnaround is none other than Patrick Beverley.
The Timberwolves landed the mercurial Pat Bev in an offseason trade that sent Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez to Memphis. His arrival immediately bolstered Minnesota’s thin bench and gave the young team a tougher mentality. He’s been an underdog his whole life, and his new teammates have begun to take on his scrappy mentality on and off the court.
You love him if he’s on your team. But if Beverley isn’t on your team, you probably loathe him. He’s objectively one of the most annoying guys in the NBA. Players hate playing against him and fans are sick of his antics, throwing his body around with a shit-eating grin every time a call goes his way. But annoying Los Angeles Lakers fans isn’t the only thing Beverley has brought to Minnesota.
A second-round pick in 2009, Beverley spent part of the next four years honing his skills in Europe before finally signing with the Houston Rockets during the 2012-13 season. Since making it to the NBA, Beverley has never missed the playoffs in nine seasons. He’s earned All-Defensive honors three times and won the NBA Hustle Award in 2016-17. “Mr. 94 Feet” is a fighter. He has gone toe-to-toe with some of the best guards in the league in the playoffs.
While an irritant to other teams, Beverley has a calming presence on his squad. He takes on all of Minnesota’s frustrations with foul calls, physical play, and adversity. He channels it by talking to the officials, standing up to opposing players, and lighting a fire under his team so other more talented players can focus on the game.
You can see a bit of Beverley’s influence in almost every Wolves player.
- Instead of constantly throwing his hands up in frustration and looking for a ref to complain to, Karl-Anthony Towns is flexing, shouting, and (for the most part) playing basketball instead of mind games with the officials.
- D’Angelo Russell is locked on every defensive possession instead of moonlighting as a matador.
- Anthony Edwards is confidently destroying teams in transition and burying shots in crunch time instead of short-circuiting at the end of games.
- Jarred Vanderbilt has found his inner Dennis Rodman and could earn an All-Defensive nod.
- Role players are flying around wreaking havoc on defense.
- And everyone is having the most fun the Target Center has seen in more than a decade.
The results of Beverley’s influence on the culture of the Timberwolves are tangible on the court. The Wolves have the 10th ranked defense in the NBA, their best mark since 2003-04. They’re third in the league in deflections and recovering loose balls, fourth in drawing charges, and sixth in steals. These are all staples of Beverley’s hardnosed style of play that gets under the skin of opposing players and fans. He’s always in the right spot and gives up his body for the betterment of the team. With Beverley, the Wolves have somehow become a gritty defensive team.
Off the court, you can see a lot of Beverley’s personality percolating throughout the locker room. Everyone on this team seems to have blossomed and their personalities are beginning to shine through. Edwards has always been Ant, but he’s been a bit spicier this season and is already not afraid to stand up to Jimmy Butler. Vando is a burgeoning cool-guy-weirdo and calling out “lame” media members. KAT is all over social media and is in a certified power couple with Jordyn Woods. Naz Reid, Josh Okogie, and other bench players are all blossoming in their own ways. Beverley is a classic fan-favorite archetype, but since he arrived it seems like half the team has become a fan favorite thanks to Beverley’s influence.
Hell, even Chris Finch seems cool as hell arguing calls on the sideline.
The Wolves are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference with an 18-20 record. Beverley is offering his normal contributions to winning basketball averaging 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.0 steal per game at age 33. His heart and soul are all over the 2021-22 Minnesota Timberwolves blueprint. He has remolded them in his image.
A handful of players are more directly responsible for Minnesota’s turnaround on the court, but Beverley is resetting the Timberwolves’ culture — and annoying a bunch of other teams in the process.