Malik Beasley’s role in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offense

The Minnesota Timberwolves offense has struggled this year, but it’s hard to blame Malik Beasley.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were expected to have a dynamic offense this season. So far … that hasn’t been the case, to put it mildly.

They still should figure it out, of course, and missing Karl-Anthony Towns for the past four games is a legitimate excuse for a dip in offensive production.

Through six games, however, the Wolves are No. 26 in the NBA in offensive rating and No. 25 in points per game. Even without Towns, the Wolves have plenty of offensive talent on the roster and shouldn’t be having as many issues as they are on that end of the floor.

For his part, however, Malik Beasley is doing what the Wolves are asking of him.

What the Minnesota Timberwolves want from Malik Beasley

Beasley’s success in 14 games in a Timberwolves uniform at what was ultimately the tail-end of the 2019-20 season is well-documented. He put up 20.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and 42.6 percent shooting from deep on 8.2 3-point attempts per contest.

Despite serious off-the-court issues this offseason, the Wolves bet on the best-case scenario and gave Beasley a three-year deal with an average annual value of $15 million and a team option on a fourth year.

Beasley has mostly performed as expected. He’s averaging 19 points per game so far this season and has continued to improve his overall rebound rate; it stands at 8.2 percent in 20 total games with Minnesota between last year and this year. Prior to this season, his career rebounding rate was only 6.2 percent.

With the amount of small-ball that the Wolves are playing, his ability to rebound his position is vital, and he’s done just that in a Timberwolves uniforrm.

Sure, Beasley is shooting only 34.3 percent from beyond the arc through six games, but that number will come up. His defense, while spotty, is clearly improved over last season. Consistency is an issue, but at least progress is being made.

Now, let’s look at how the Wolves are using Beasley this season.

Mailk Beasley’s role in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offense

In terms of the Wolves’ overall offensive issues, Beasley gets something of a pass. While he is a dynamic player who can score at a high rate in transition or in the half-court, he is often reliant on plays being called for him or on the ability of the team to get out and run, and when he’s had those opportunities, he’s been largely successful.

Beasley was good in the opener Detroit, despite only playing 26 minutes due to early foul trouble. Watch the video of all his 18 shot attempts in a row. You’ll find that only three of them came off the dribble in the half-court. Everything else was either in transition, a spot-up opportunity, or as a cutter.

It was pretty much the quintessential Beasley game, albeit with a few more misses than would be ideal. But it’s exactly the recipe for Beasley scoring in the neighborhood of 20 points per game this year.

In other words, while it would be great to have more production out of Beasley, his success relies heavily on how those around him are playing.

Beasley has seemingly rounded into form over the last couple of games, including a hot start to the game on New Year’s Day against the Wizards and a solid start-to-finish performance in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Against the Wizards, Beasley scored 21 points on 13 shots, including 3-of-6 on 3-point attempts. Facing his former team, he had 25 points (10-16 FG, 3-5 3P, 2-2 FT), seven rebounds, and five assists.

So far this season, Beasley is scoring 1.2 points per possession (PPP) when he finishes a play as a cutter, but just under 10 percent of his possessions are used in that way. A whopping 26 percent of Beasley’s possessions are spent in a spot-up situation, where he is scoring 1.11 points per possession.

Beasley’s best playtype so far this season is off of handoffs. While it makes up only 12.5 percent of his possessions, Beasley is scoring a fantastic 1.46 PPP. True to the Wolves’ offense and how Beasley has played throughout his career, he has yet to operate in an isolation situation.

The below clip of Beasley scoring as a cutter is just one of three baskets that looked eerily similar to one another from the Nuggets game.

Beasley’s speed and athleticism make him a dangerous cutter, and when he can get going downhill, it’s extremely difficult to keep him from scoring.

So much of Beasley’s offensive game is predicated on doing damage in transition and his own movement without the ball within the Wolves’ offense. If the Wolves offense is clicking and things are on time, Beasley will score at a highly efficient rate.

If things are clunky, as we’ve seen at the beginning of this season, Beasley will have his share of less effective scoring nights.

Outside of scoring the ball, Beasley has been much better defensively and on the glass than he had been over the first few years of his career.

Those are positive developments, to say the least, and provide hope that he can live up to the amount of money he was paid this offseason. Indeed, the current version of Malik Beasley is worthy of his contract and could absolutely be a starting-caliber player on a playoff team.

Now the Wolves just need the rest of the team to match both Beasley’s effectiveness and intensity on both ends of the floor.