Malik Beasley is unquestionably one of the essential pieces to the Minnesota Timberwolves offense. Boasting one of the purest shooting forms on the roster, the sixth-year wing needs to find his sniper mentality if the Wolves wish to build on their encouraging preseason performances.
Of course, Beasley hasn’t had anything that resembles an ordinary off-season. The former Denver Nuggets shooting guard has been recovering from a hamstring injury that cut his season short last year while also serving a prison sentence due to several charges relating to his off-court activities.
A topsy-turvy off-season is undoubtedly showing its effects, as Beasley has struggled to find consistency when shooting the ball thus far in preseason. Over his first two games, the Atlanta native has gone 8-of-20 from the field and only 1-of-9 from deep; putting those numbers into percentages, we get 40 percent from the field and 11.1 percent from three-point land.
Not the numbers one would hope for from a team’s heavily relied upon shooter. Of course, this is still preseason, and you would rather a player work through their struggles now than in the regular season when wins actually hold value. Nevertheless, Malik Beasley will need to show signs that he’s shaking the rust off over the next two games.
“His role is going to be huge. We run a lot of things for him when he’s in there in that unit that he’s in. He’s not really made shots at a high level yet in the preseason, but he will. I liked his aggressiveness, though. He was turning the corners and trying to make the right play.” Chris Finch told the media after Beasley’s 5-of-12 shooting night against the Orlando Magic.
Since joining the Timberwolves midway through the 2019-20 NBA season, Beasley has averaged roughly 40 percent from deep on around 8.5 attempts per game – highly respectable numbers that provide the team with invaluable spacing on offense. We all know that Beasley is more than just a knock-down three-point shooter, with his ability to pressure the rim also an essential aspect of his game – be it from floater range or drives to the cup.
It’s that same scoring versatility that the Timberwolves need Beasley to rediscover, especially if they’re aiming to play with pace and stretch the floor to provide the likes of Anthony Edwards driving opportunities when defenses force half-court possessions.
Another aspect to look at is playmaking. Last season 87 percent of Beasley’s buckets came courtesy of an assist, so it’s evident he relies on timely passes to find him in his shooting spots. With an up-tempo offense and increased aggression when driving the ball, the Timberwolves will need to put an onus on ball-handlers knowing when and where to find Beasley if they want to accentuate his sharpshooting abilities. Granted, Beasley still has to knock those looks down. Still, until he develops the ability to create his own offense, he needs to be set up with favorably shooting opportunities consistently.
It’s still far too early to develop any concerns about Beasley’s shooting stroke or the undeniable rust that he’s carrying. But should that rust carry over into the regular season, the Timberwolves could find themselves lacking an outside scoring punch until Beasley has worked himself back into game shape – and that is far from the ideal scenario Chris Finch will have in mind.