Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley should start while D’Angelo Russell is out

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley. (Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images)
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley. (Photo by Harrison Barden/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Timberwolves will play their second consecutive game without the injured D’Angelo Russell on Friday night.

One idea to help buoy the offense in Russell’s absence? Put Malik Beasley into the starting lineup.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Malik Beasley should start with D’Angelo Russell out

Through seven games, the Timberwolves offense ranks No. 23 in offensive rating. While things looked much better on that end of the floor in Wednesday’s loss to the LA Clippers, let’s not overreact too much to a game that still saw the Wolves lose by double-digits.

With no Russell, veteran Patrick Beverley moved into the starting lineup. It makes plenty of sense, and PatBev played well on Wednesday, nearly logging a triple-double against his former team.

But the Wolves also started Josh Okogie on Wednesday, which immediately put them behind the 8-ball offensively.

So, what should the starting lineup on Friday look like? Easy. Beverley, Malik Beasley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Let’s start with the matchup. If the Wolves are ever going to start a “small” lineup, the Clippers are the team to do it against. LA has both Eric Bledsoe and Reggie Jackson in their starting lineup with Paul George at the 3 and Nicolas Batum at the 4.

But this specific matchup aside, Beasley is a better fit with this starting group than he is with the reserves.

While Beverley is the de facto point guard, he is generally more effective off the ball. Edwards initiates a large portion of the Wolves’ offense when he’s on the floor anyway, with plenty of sets flowing through Karl-Anthony Towns. The Clippers did a great job slowing Towns down on Wednesday by doubling him on any catch below the 3-point arc, but if the Wolves are a bit more creative on Friday, both Towns and Edwards should have opportunities to have big games.

With Edwards and Towns initiating, Beverley and Beasley can spot-up outside the arc and spread the floor. Remember, Beasley shot 41.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season, and Beverley’s mark with the Clippers was 41.4 percent.

With the bench unit, Beasley is asked to over-extend himself. Yes, Beasley’s a high-usage player and has averaged 18.7 points per game in his Timberwolves career. But he’s not a high-usage scorer in the same way that Edwards and Towns are.

Beasley does the vast majority of his damage in transition (19.2 percent of his possessions last year) and spotting up in catch-and-shoot situations (26.3 percent). He’s also an effective cutter, although he doesn’t play that role often enough.

Beasley does not operate as the pick-and-roll handler much at all — in fact, he’s done that exactly zero times so far this season according to NBA.com.

The second unit right now is Jordan McLaughlin, Beasley, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Naz Reid. No, there isn’t much offense there, but starting Beasley and staggering his minutes, along with Edwards and Towns, as well as giving Jaylen Nowell some second-unit run, should help cover any gaps in scoring.

By bringing Beasley off the bench and starting Okogie, it limits what the Wolves can do offensively to start the game, and also shoe-horns Beasley into a less-comfortable offensive role with the bench unit. He’s made to be a fantastic third or fourth option, not an instant offense, sixth-man-type who will do damage off the dribble.

Also, small sample size be damned, what’s the Wolves’ best five-man lineup this season that has played at least 15 minutes together? You guessed it: Beverley, Beasley, Edwards, McDaniels, and Towns.

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While it’s admittedly unlikely to happen, here’s hoping that Finch makes a change to the lineup on Friday night.