Minnesota Timberwolves 2020-21 season grades: Malik Beasley

Malik Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Malik Beasley of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves took a calculated risk when they opted to re-sign Malik Beasley at a substantial price in restricted free agency.

The risk was greater due to Beasley’s legal situation, which was very much pending at the time. Now, provided things go to plan this summer with Beasley’s upcoming probation and workhouse/home confinement sentence over the summer, his legal issues should be behind the Timberwolves.

Beasley did serve a 12-game suspension in the middle of the 2020-21 season and wasn’t himself when he returned, ultimately missing the rest of the season due to a hamstring issue. Still, Beasley was fantastic pre-suspension, and the contract extension didn’t look like an overpay at all.

Minnesota Timberwolves 2020-21 season grades: Malik Beasley

The Wolves signed Beasley to a four-year, $60 million deal with a team option for the final year. The average annual value of $15 million was thought to be toward the high end of what Beasley would receive on the open market, but he played so well early in the season that the contract now seems entirely reasonable.

Over 37 games, Beasley averaged 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 0.8 steals per game — all career-highs. His 39.9 shooting percentage from 3-point range was only slightly below his career-best mark, but came on a much higher volume. Beasley attempted a career-high 8.7 long-range attempts per game and carried a 3-point rate of .535, meaning that 53.5 percent of his shot attempts were threes.

Early in the season, Beasley was heavily relied upon to generate offense for a unit that struggled far more than expected.

Karl-Anthony Towns was injured in the second game of the season. D’Angelo Russell didn’t play well early as he navigated playing alongside Ricky Rubio in the backcourt. And Anthony Edwards came off the bench and struggled early in his rookie campaign.

For the season, the Russell, Beasley, Edwards, and Towns quartet shared the court for only 13 minutes, a shocking microcosm of just how cursed the campaign was for the Wolves. In those 13 minutes — obviously a painfully small sample size — the group put up a ridiculous 37.9 net rating.

The biggest knock on Beasley’s game coming into the season was his poor defense. Beasley doesn’t have the size to adequately guard 3s or even some bigger 2s, and had never shown the want-to to fight through screens and stick in front of opposing guards and wings.

That changed this season, however, and Beasley’s renewed commitment to defense was on display. He was far from his stated goal of NBA All-Defense, but his improvement was real for much of the first half of the season.

Beasley finished with a Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating of -0.22 — not great, but still No. 34 among shooting guards and ahead of the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Caris LeVert.

If Beasley can manage to play league-average defense and keep up high-volume 3-point shooting near 40 percent, then the Wolves will more than get their money’s worth at $15 million per year.

Additionally, Beasley surely has positive trade value and would be the Wolves’ most significant trade asset not named Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards if they were to make a play for another star to play alongside Towns, Edwards, and Russell. While it’s unlikely Beasley is moved this offseason, the possibility is absolutely not off the table for a front office that loves wheeling and dealing.

Malik Beasley’s 2020-21 Season Grade: A-

Malik Bealey was everything the Wolves needed him to be when on the court this season. The only knock on his grade here was the fact that he only played in 37 games, in part due to his own doing.

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If Beasley can stay out of trouble and stay healthy, a Wolves offense with a dynamic point guard in Russell, a do-it-all, ultra-versatile big man in Towns, an unstoppable force in Edwards, and a deadeye shooter in Beasley will almost surely be a top-10 unit league-wide.