Virtually every time there is a rumor including a star player that is reportedly available, fans start throwing together trade packages with the Minnesota Timberwolves involved.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means people value the young core that the Gersson Rosas has assembled and those pieces can bring in a bigger name.
Part of it is also that Rosas worked under Daryl Morey for so long that they assume he’s always looking for another superstar to pair with Karl-Anthony Towns, but the core is a larger part.
One name that primarily gets thrown into these conversations is Malik Beasley. It’s time to talk about why Beasley shouldn’t simply be cast off the roster this offseason.
Malik Beasley is the key to a Minnesota Timberwolves playoff run
It’s obvious why teams would be interested in acquiring Beasley. Who wouldn’t want a 24-year-old, knockdown 3-point shooter?
Beasley has the perfect trade machine combination: talent, age, and a contract that helps fit him into most potential deals. But if I’m running the Wolves, I wouldn’t move Beasley.
In fact, he’s my x-factor in a potential Timberwolves playoff run next season.
The Wolves showed a lot of promise at the end of last season. They found their stride in Chris Finch’s offense and guys settled into more defined roles that suited their game as they went 9-7 over their final 16 games.
However, all of that was without Beasley. So, what can Beasley bring to the Wolves that is so crucial they shouldn’t move him in the offseason?
Malik Beasley is a scheme-proof shooter for the Minnesota Timberwolves
He has a game that can fit into essentially any offense because he doesn’t always need the ball to score.
As a spot-up shooter, Beasley posted an extremely efficient 1.30 points per possession (PPP), putting him in the same range as Brooklyn Nets sharpshooter Joe Harris (1.32 PPP). Similarly, Beasley shot 41.3 percent on catch and shoot threes on over six attempts per game, all per NBA.com.
Having someone who can play off of Towns’ gravity and make teams pay for it is so valuable.
The Knicks are so terrified of an open Towns 3-point attempt that they willingly leave another elite shooter open.
If the Wolves go into next season with Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell, they will have three guys who are all better with the ball in their hands. Although, as noted by yours truly in a recent piece, Russell developed a nice off-ball game with Towns and Edwards.
Still, having someone like Beasley to play off of those three and doesn’t always need the ball to get his points is a very nice luxury to have.
He does a solid job as a cutter (1.21 PPP on only 4.9 percent frequency), but I’d like to see more work in handoffs — especially with Towns.
We’ve seen the work that Towns does with Edwards on handoffs, but a shooter like Beasley could really cause panic to opposing defenses. He was at 0.89 PPP with relatively decent frequency (which puts him in the top 20 for the entire league) and I have such a trust in Chris Finch that he can get Beasley more efficient looks on handoffs.
Where does Malik Beasley fit in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lineup?
Despite some solid performances from Russell off the bench, something would have to drastically change to have him start on the bench next season.
The group of Russell, Towns and Edwards were plus-4.9 once Russell came back, per Cleaning the Glass, and they looked really good together.
And while lineups with those three plus Beasley were plus-60.7, it was an aggressively low sample (26 possessions) and that’s not a unit that can be played consistently.
The optimal situation, then, will be having Beasley come off the bench and providing instant offense with his shooting. The nice part about Beasley’s game is that he can fill either Russell’s or Edwards’ spot when he checks in.
The Wolves will likely want to keep wanting to get Edwards on-ball reps and Beasley won’t interfere with that too much.
Two of the Wolves’ three most-used lineups featured the trio of Beasley, Edwards, and Towns and were plus-10.0 in nearly 450 possessions, so it’s obvious that combo can work.
The lineups with Beasley and Russell didn’t go as well (an overall minus-13.1) but those two never actually got to play together under Finch, so those numbers would look different had they got that chance.
There’s really no other player on the Wolves with a skillset like Beasley’s and they would be very wise to keep him. He keeps the paint open for the Wolves’ Big 3 who are all solid-to-very-good finishers at the rim and are all very good at driving and kicking.
He didn’t get much of an extended run in Finch’s offense, but he is a player who would fit very nicely into some of the off-ball work that Finch had players — who were less suited than Beasley — running.
He fits the timeline for the Wolves to grow and begin winning — which should start as early as next season — and that’s crucial with where the Wolves stand in regards to Towns’ eventual contract extension.
So unless there’s the chance to get someone who can really make a difference to the trajectory of the Wolves next season, hold on to Malik Beasley and watch him be a key piece to a Wolves playoff run.