Timberwolves week in review including Naz, Zion, and Beasley

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 23: Malik Beasley (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 23: Malik Beasley (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves had a strong week going 2-2 against three potential playoff teams. Let’s dive deeper into what we learned from this week.

The Good:

1.)  Naz Reid‘s continued development

Naz found himself in an absolute grind of a schedule to start his career as an NBA center. He had to go up against the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic, Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis, Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo, and Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic. That is a tall task for any rookie to handle.

Naz Reid had his first career double-double against New Orleans on Tuesday (13 points, 14 rebounds), and he followed that up with almost accruing another double-double by halftime of the following day’s game in Chicago.

He also showed some strong play-making ability as there were multiple plays were Naz would drive to the rim off of a pick-and-roll and would then look to pass for an open shooter. D’Angelo Russell even commented that he was “passing like Magic.”

This new wrinkle in his game increases the ball movement in Minnesota’s pace-and-space offense when the big man can find open shooters on the perimeter.

2.) Malik Beasley, the flamethrower

Beasley had a slow couple of games to start the week. However, he broke out of that mini-slump and erupted in the win in New Orleans going 11-for-13 from the field for a total of 28 points. He shot 33.3%, 44.4%, 80%, and 50% from three in the Wolves’ four games this week.

Beasley is a career 38.9% shooter from three, which means that his recent shooting is likely real and not just a hot streak.

In an interview after the Pelicans game D’Angelo Russell had the following to say about his backcourt mate:

"“Teams are guarding Beasley like he’s J.J. Redick and that’s allowing me to create”"

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3.) The veteran influence of James Johnson

I’m going to be honest, I hated the James Johnson trade at the time.

I didn’t think he was of any value, thought Gorgui Dieng was significantly more valuable, and was left scratching my head. That’s likely the last time I question Gersson Rosas.

Johnson has been producing on the court, but he’s shown that he’s a leader in the locker room too.

Johnson had interviews throughout the week singing the praises of Naz Reid, and he also posted on his Instagram praising the undrafted rookie. Considering Johnson is coming off the bench while Reid is in the starting lineup, it’s a very humble move from the Wolves’ veteran.

The Bad:

1.) The Wolves could really really really use a backup center

The aforementioned vet Johnson has been great. However, he’s only human.

There was a play in the Orlando game where Johnson was guarding Nikola Vucevic and he defended him perfectly. But Johnson is not a center. Vucevic just had too much size and there was nothing Johnson could do about it as the Magic center scored rather unfazed.

The Wolves do have young bigs in the G-League like Jarred Vanderbilt (who could be a long-term steal) and Omari Spellman who they could definitely play more.  hey also have an open roster spot after waiving Allen Crabbe.  his could allow them to sign a player to a 10-day deal or two until star Karl-Anthony Towns gets back.

Having another center-sized player could go a long way on the defensive end and help fix the Wolves’ rebounding woes as well. For example Towns, though not known for his defense, could at least help by just having the height and size to annoy and challenge guys like Porzingis and Vucevic.

The Ugly:

1.) The Jekyll and Hyde Wolves.

In the Dallas game Minnesota was struggling with their shot. The result? A very ugly 20-point blowout where the Mavericks were in control basically the entire game.

In their losses this week, the Wolves shot 48.4%, 38% from two-point range, and 36.4% and 31% from three. In the wins they shot 55.7%, 41.2% from two, and 49.4%, 44.2% from three.

When the Wolves’ shots aren’t falling they seem deflated at times and become an easier team to beat. When they are falling, they ooze swag and are good enough to hang with just about any team in the league. They even make more hustle plays, extra passes, and are more engaged on defense when their offense is rolling.

2.) Zion Williamson almost killed Josh Okogie.

How can anyone not love Josh Okogie?  When the Wolves played New Orleans this week, Okogie was being Okogie and stepped in to take a charge from Zion. The young wing went flying covering well over five feet.

MVP of the Week:

The human flamethrower: Malik Beasley. It was hard not to put Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, Naz, and Jordan McLaughlin in this spot, but alas, that’s a good problem to have.

Next. Timberwolves: Tracking new players' progress part 1. dark

Upcoming games next week:

3/8: vs New Orleans

3/10: @Houston

3/13: @Oklahoma City