Revisiting why Malik Beasley should be a regular starter for the Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley has been much better as a starter throughout his career. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malik Beasley has been much better as a starter throughout his career. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been painfully short-handed over the past couple of weeks, which has allowed Malik Beasley to slide into the starting lineup.

Thus far, it’s been a clear reminder why Beasley should always be announced with the starters, even when the roster is at full strength.

Revisiting why Malik Beasley should be a regular starter for the Timberwolves

Yours truly has argued for Malik Beasley to be a regular member of the Timberwolves starting lineup for months.

Most recently, when D’Angelo Russell went out with a sprained ankle, I made the argument that Beasley should be starting. Here’s part of the argument:

"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"

Head coach Chris Finch didn’t put Beasley in the starting lineup at the time, and the Wolves were beat handily in all three games that Russell missed.

After Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley were both knocked out of the lineup due to health and safety protocols a week ago, Beasley joined the starting five. The Wolves have gone 2-2 since, and Beasley has averaged 21.3 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting from the field and shot 20-for-53 (37.7 percent) on 3-point attempts.

In 28 games as a reserve so far this season, Beasley is averaging just 11 points per game on 36.1 percent shooting and 34.1 percent on 3-point tries.

Last year, Beasley started all but one of the games he appeared in for the Wolves. Going back to the 2019-20 season that was split between Minnesota and the Denver Nuggets, Beasley averaged 20.7 points per game on 47.2 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from long-range as a starter. As a reserve, his numbers plummeted to 7.9 points per game on 38.9 percent field goal shooting and 36 percent on 3-point attempts.

Logically, Beasley’s ideal role meshes better with the starters as well. Last January, yours truly broke down Beasley’s role in the Wolves’ offense, which was struggling at the time. Check the piece out, as it includes video of some of Beasley’s better offensive possessions, but here’s an excerpt:

"Beasley was good in the opener Detroit, despite only playing 26 minutes due to early foul trouble. Watch the video of all his 18 shot attempts in a row. You’ll find that only three of them came off the dribble in the half-court. Everything else was either in transition, a spot-up opportunity, or as a cutter.It was pretty much the quintessential Beasley game, albeit with a few more misses than would be ideal. But it’s exactly the recipe for Beasley scoring in the neighborhood of 20 points per game this year.…So far this season, Beasley is scoring 1.2 points per possession (PPP) when he finishes a play as a cutter, but just under 10 percent of his possessions are used in that way. A whopping 26 percent of Beasley’s possessions are spent in a spot-up situation, where he is scoring 1.11 points per possession.Beasley’s best playtype so far this season is off of handoffs. While it makes up only 12.5 percent of his possessions, Beasley is scoring a fantastic 1.46 PPP…"

Beasley’s efficiency plummets when playing with lesser passers and players who aren’t as effective penetrating and collapsing the defense. Beasley thrives off of transition opportunities and kick-out passes, and once he’s in a rhythm, Finch can call plays to get him open shots off of pindown screens and other creative actions and it’s lights out for the defense.

Of course, we’ve also seen the regular, when-healthy starting lineup of Russell, Beverley, Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Karl-Anthony Towns put up the best net rating in the league of any five-man lineup. It stands to reason that Finch won’t mess with something that isn’t broken, but perhaps there is some room to start Beasley and move Beverley to the bench, understanding that the crunchtime lineup very well could be different than the starting unit.

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Clearly, Beasley is more comfortable as a starter. Finch may need to get creative to make it work, but the Wolves need to consider a way to keep Beasley with the starting unit even when Edwards, Beverley, and others return from the injured list.