The Minnesota Timberwolves are closing in on the midway point of the regular season. It’s fair to say that we have a large enough sample size to pick a player that has clearly improved and a player that has clearly regressed.
Which Timberwolves player has improved, regressed the most this year?
From last season to this season the roles of some players have changed and some of the players that improved have developed nicely into the role they are currently in.
We could probably pick multiple players who have arguably either improved or regressed thus far this season, but we’re going to be picky and pick one for each category.
Jarred Vanderbilt has been the Timberwolves’ most-improved player
Since claiming a starting role and earning more minutes, Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of the Timberwolves’ best defenders and their best all-around rebounder. Vanderbilt is averaging 8.6 rebounds per game — almost three more than last year — and has a rebounding rate of 18.1 percent, which leads the team.
Vanderbilt isn’t the biggest threat on offense, of course, but he has been solid on defense. He’s averaging 1.5 steals nearly a block per game.
Over a week ago our own Ben Beecken highlighted Vanderbilt’s unique and valuable skill set.
Predictably, Vanderbilt is leading the team in rebounding percentage through the first 30 games of the current season. He’s also first in steal rate and third in block rate, all while carrying the lowest usage rate on the team on the offensive end of the floor.
The Dennis Rodman comparison for Vanderbilt isn’t all that crazy — his aggressiveness on defense and the overall way in which he plays the game is undeniable.
Malik Beasley has seen the steepest regression for the Timberwolves
The player who has arguably regressed the most this season is Malik Beasley.
Notably, Beasley has had a significant role change. After starting in 36 games of the 37 he played last year, he has played in 32 games this year and has only started in four. All of those starts have come following Anthony Edwards’ positive COVID-19 test just under two weeks ago.
Last year, Beasley averaged 19.9 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. This year, he is only averaging 12.3 points per game on 37 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc.
Tuesday’s loss to the New York Knicks is, in many ways, a microcosm of how much Beasley has struggled this season. Beasley shot 4-of-16 from beyond the arc and 8-of-23 overall, although he still managed to score a game-high 20 points.
It might be possible that Beasley is struggling because of his new role, but the more likely reason for his struggles is him just being in a slump.
Even though Beasley is struggling, he can easily turn things around. He’s been a much better shooter than this for the entirety of his career, and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to right the ship in the coming weeks.