Rosas: Patrick Beverley changes Minnesota Timberwolves’ whole defense

During Patrick Beverley‘s introductory press conference this week, Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas spoke highly of what the veteran guard will bring to a young Wolves team.

The focus of Rosas’s comments was the defensive end of the floor, and Beverley echoed the sentiment with his own thoughts, underscoring just how important defense will be when it comes to the team taking the next step.

The Minnesota Timberwolves defense needed a Patrick Beverley

It’s well documented that the Wolves have struggled mightily to defend ever since Jimmy Butler was traded in November of 2018.

In the ensuing three years, including the 2018-19 season in which Butler played in only a handful of games, the Wolves finished No. 24, No. 21, and No. 28 in the league in team defensive rating.

While there were solid individual defenders on last year’s team, including Josh Okogie, Jaden McDaniels, and Ricky Rubio, the team never played well consistently as a unit. Rubio started slow and was out of shape, Okogie was so bad offensively that he wasn’t on the floor as much as the coaches would have liked, and McDaniels wasn’t a regular member of the rotation until late in the year.

Now, the Wolves have brought in Beverley as an upgrade to Rubio. Jarred Vanderbilt has been re-signed and figures to be a bigger part of the frontcourt rotation, and McDaniels will have the chance to get minutes at both the 3 and the 4 from the opening tip-off of the season.

We still don’t know exactly how much the Wolves will get from rookie Leandro Bolmaro, who is expected to sign a contract soon. Bolmaro is a fantastic pick-and-roll defender and should add more of an edge to the Wolves’ perimeter defense.

Outside of Beverley and Bolmaro, however, the personnel is largely the same — which provides a fairly strong hint as to just how much Rosas and the coaching staff will be relying on Beverley to affect major change.

Rosas: Patrick Beverley changes Minnesota Timberwolves’ whole defense

During Beverley’s introductory press conference, Rosas made sure to spend time lauding the ability of his new backup guard to make a clear impact on the floor.

From Chris Hine at the Star Tribune:

Rosas said it is hard to swing a deal for a player like Beverley who “can change the whole defense,” and the Wolves hope he can have a big impact on raising their defensive rating from 28th last season.

“We have to change the culture, change the environment and we have a guy that has the urgency, that fights, that’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we’re successful,” Rosas said.

Let’s start with Beverley’s individual impact as a defender.

As yours truly noted immediately following his acquisition, Beverley’s finished in the top 20 among point guards in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus in each of the past three seasons, including a No. 1 finish in 2019-20 and a No. 8 finish last season.

He’s a cerebral player who plays extremely hard, and that makes a huge difference as a key cog in a team’s overall defensive unit. While Beverley is now 31 years old and on the verge of losing a step in one-on-one situations, he still understands spacing, angles, and perhaps most importantly, how to guard a variety of pick-and-roll looks, which is a must in today’s NBA.

Beverley backed up what Rosas was saying, and masterfully ticked off plenty of general, more ambiguous characteristics in addition to more technical, on-court skills that are vital to an improving defense. He listed accountability and honesty as two key factors in a young team getting better defensively, and then went on to talk more specifically about the positioning and timing side of things.

Having a player such as Beverley who has been to the playoffs every single year in the NBA and has also had plenty of individual defensive success should be a boon to the Wolves this season. He’s saying all the right things to this point, and it’s obvious why Rosas and the front office added him to the roster.