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How Malik Beasley helps the Timberwolves

While D’Angelo Russell rightfully received much of the team’s deadline attention, Malik Beasley is showing he could also be worthwhile.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

No one would blame Timberwolves fans for focusing most on the D’Angelo Russell after last Thursday’s trade deadline. That trade was not only notable for the player they acquired but also because it sent out franchise mainstay Andrew Wiggins.

Yet, overlooking the addition of Malik Beasley could be a mistake. Beasley was acquired from Denver last Tuesday as a part of the four-team trade that sent out five Wolves players. In his debut, Beasley posted his first career double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, including 7-for-13 from 3.

Overreacting to one game is foolish but there were many good things Beasley showed that, if repeated, could make him the team’s future shooting guard.

Why Denver moved Beasley

The thing about good players is that teams usually prefer to keep them. In Beasley’s time as a Nugget, he competed for minutes in a crowded perimeter and back court rotation. Jamal Murray, Monte Morris, Gary Harris, and Will Barton consumed many of the available minutes. This made it difficult for Beasley to see the floor more than the 18 minutes per game he averaged this season.

In addition to the rotation squeeze, the Nuggets were going to have a hard time paying Beasley in restricted free agency. Denver’s cap confinements made paying Beasley difficult, especially when it was tough to find minutes for him. These factors made Beasley expendable.

Filling a need

Losing Robert Covington was difficult but if we learned anything in Karl-Anthony Towns’ absence, it’s the the Wolves needed more creators. Covington was having a down year shooting beyond the arc but had shown proficiency from deep throughout his career. Unfortunately, Covington relied too heavily on others to create for him given the construct of Minnesota’s roster.

The Wolves’ offensive rating went from 108 to a mediocre 101 when Towns missed 14 games with a knee injury. Because Wiggins was too unreliable in the role, the Wolves needed to look elsewhere.

Beasley showed he may be able to fill this void on Saturday by scoring in a variety of ways.

With Beasley, the team’s shooting may not suffer much. Beasley has shot around 38 percent over his four-year NBA career and in his lone season at Florida State. It’s reasonable to expect this level of efficiency going forward.

Yet, Beasley will need to get his efficiency up inside the arc as well. Last season he shot 56 percent on 2-pointers, but that has dropped to a curiously low 41 percent this season. Whether it’s an inability to get in rhythm with inconsistent playing time or simple bad luck, he will need to correct this trend.

Last season, Beasley shot better than 50 percent when taking one or two dribbles. In comparison, he shot 46.5 percent on shots with no dribbles. Beasley thrived in catch-and-shoot situations and shots within 10 feet of the rim while shooting 40.2 percent from the perimeter.

Getting back to being this player will make Beasley a steady third option for the Timberwolves. When he gets going like he did on Saturday, the team may be able to lean on him and give Towns and Russell a break.

Showing flashes

Saturday gave insight into what Beasley can offer these Wolves. Beasley showed that he isn’t shy to make plays for himself when he needs to but knows when it isn’t his time either.

Beasley runs into the corner for an open 3-pointer in transition.

Beasley misses the 3 but gets back into position for another clean look and drains it.

Beasley takes a few dribbles and uses a screen to get an above-the-break 3-pointer.

Aside from scoring, Beasley showed that he does recognize when a teammate has a better shot and knows how to get it to them. Not missing the easy and obvious passes are a simple thing that keep an offense moving.

Beasley recognizes Jordan McLoughlin is either trying to help land a plan or is calling for the ball. Making the pass here led to an easy 3-pointer.
By collapsing the defense on the drive, Beasley is able to hit an open Naz Reid for a corner 3.

It’s just one game

These are just a few ways Beasley impacted the game in his Timberwolves debut. Beasley will have to get back to finishing at the rim like he’s done all career and continuing to grow his game on both ends.

But if Beasley is able to build on the foundation he already has, the Wolves may have found another future building block.