It's entirely possible that the Minnesota Timberwolves have already constructed their backcourt of the future in Malik Beasley and D'Angelo Russell.
Their dynamic ability on the offensive end hasn't been seen at the Target Center since Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. For a 19-win team, an air of hope and excitement has suffused the city, and for good reason: the Timberwolves could have their backcourt of the future.
The offensive production speaks for itself. Since joining the Timberwolves, both Malik and D-Lo are attempting roughly nine 3-pointers per game and are converting them at fantastic individual marks of 36.3 percent and 42.7 percent respectively.
Malik Beasley is averaging 22 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest in 12 games with Timberwolves, while D’Angelo Russell is averaging 21.3 points, 6.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds in nine appearances. They are both a huge part of a playing style that Ryan Saunders and Gersson Rosas have built to compete in the modern NBA.
The post-trade Timberwolves continue to build on their identity, and Malik and D’Angelo’s heroics have fit the mold. Plus, they’re doing it without Karl-Anthony Towns. If I were a betting man, I’d bet that the elevation of team play resumes when KAT enters back into the fold. There is an argument the backcourt’s numbers could even improve with KAT’s ability to space the floor.
Beasley and Russell have risen to the occasion to lead the team while the best player is sidelined with an ill-timed injury. That the team hasn’t completely succumbed to sorrow is a testament to Malik and D-Lo’s ability to rally the locker room.
Since the trade deadline, the Timberwolves have posted a 4-8 record, following Friday's loss to Orlando. While it doesn’t look good on paper, it is important to note that most games were competitive and only got away from the team late in the game, and to remind ourselves that this roster is still getting to know each other. And remember, they were even worse before the deadline.
Here are a few reasons why the backcourt of Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell can help the Timberwolves achieve greater heights -- especially when KAT returns to health.
Malik Beasley was the somewhere in the No. 8 to No. 10 spot in the rotation on a deep Denver Nuggets squad before being traded to the Timberwolves. This had less to do with his talent and ability and more to do with a crowded depth chart, and perhaps looming financial decisions concerning Beasley’s contract. Denver had to make a choice and it has paid dividends early for the Timberwolves.
As a starter, Beasley has showcased his shooting touch and willingness to cut to the basket. He has capitalized on the chance to contribute with significantly more playing time with the Wolves.
Golden State’s big signing this past offseason was D’Angelo Russell. The acquisition raised some eyebrows about how he would fit with NBA champions Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Conjectures never came to fruition, however: an injury to Curry early in the season, and Thompson’s ACL rehabilitation will leave how the splash triplets could’ve played together to the imagination.
With the Timberwolves, D’Angelo was immediately vaulted to franchise status. In the Bay Area, D’Angelo would’ve played in the shadows of the best shooting backcourt of the modern NBA. Minnesota allows him to be a team leader and function with KAT as the team’s 1A and 1B.
At the first post-trade deadline press conference, Beasley addressed the media with a stoic and focused approach. He iterated his desire to contribute to a winning culture and to bring his experience to a young team. Beasley has delivered with clutch performances in the fourth quarter of games, demonstrating the ice in his veins.
Russell has understood the expectations of the organization and fanbase. Even in losing efforts, he lauds team play and acknowledges his shortcomings. That is leadership.
As the team continues to gel, he will key in on other players’ tendencies and is already visibly vocal on the court. A lot is being put upon D-Lo and he appears to relish the challenge. In a recent tweet, D’Lo posted that he loves Minnesota. I think it’s safe to say we love him, too.
The backcourt has shown the ability to fire shots, tempered with their awareness to pass for a better look. Both Malik and D-Lo have scored crucial points during important runs to keep games from completely getting away. It is in those dire times that a confident stroke can prevent a 10-0 run from becoming a 20-0 run.
Both Beasley and Russell are comfortable having the ball in their hands. They showcase playmaking ability and their assists should go up when their best shooter, KAT, returns to the lineup. They bring a cutthroat nature to the Timberwolves, and their energy is infectious.
Trust the pRosas
With a small sample size, the backcourt of Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell have shown they can be a potent duo in the NBA. They are both young and have a lot to prove. They both have a chip-on-the-shoulder mentality that was lacking with the Timberwolves before they joined the squad.
Though Timberwolves fans have gone through some dark times, I think there is a reason for hope. It has been too long since the Timberwolves have had a backcourt that is this competitive, and it is the first time they have been this young.
Let's close with this with a piece of Instagram sage wisdom: “Winter does not last forever, and spring doesn’t skip its turn.”
If the Timberwolves backcourt sustains its play, it will be a big reason why they can keep improving this season and perhaps play deep into the spring next year.