With a roster missing Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell both for large chunks of the 2020-21 NBA season, Malik Beasley shined as an individual with his solid play. The “NBA Star” averaged 19.6 points per game while shooting 39.9% on nearly nine attempts from deep for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was truly playing like a man on a mission.
During the season, Malik Beasley was issued a 12 game suspension for an incident that happened after the 2019-20 season. He served that suspension in the middle of last season and returned for 4 games before suffering a season ending injury.
In those four games, Beasley showed quite a bit of rust, averaging just 11.75 points per game and shooting 12/35 from three. If you take out the one game he shot 5 for 8 from deep, his 3-point percentage drops to just under 26%. The sample is obviously small from that time, but it became clear that he wasn't quite up to game speed after his lengthy absence from the hardwood.
Still, with the injury and poor ending to the 2020-21 season taken into consideration, Minnesota fans remained optimistic of his role on the team this season.
Beasley, who hadn’t played a game with Chris Finch on the coaching staff since they were both in Denver years ago, figured - and currently still does - to be a critical part of the Timberwolves hopes of having a high-powered NBA offense this season. He is the sniper. The dead-eye. With a coach who seems to know how to put his players in the right spots, an elite shooter like Beasley figured to be spoon fed a handful of open triples per night.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, that hasn’t come to fruition just yet. The excuses are far from absent as Beasley served jail time this summer, which had to be a difficult situation as a professional athlete. That, coupled with the fact that he was given time at the end of the summer off, is more than enough explanation for a slow start to this campaign. He came into camp out of game shape and it showed through preseason and thus far in the regular season. That’s understandable and I’m sure he will get into game shape at some point.
"I've been through a lot this summer."— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) October 23, 2021
Malik Beasley said he took a moment before the season opener on Wednesday.
Hear more from Malik tonight on the Tip-Off Show at 6:30pm -- Wolves vs. Pelicans tip at 7:10pm on @wccoradio & Wolves Radio Network. pic.twitter.com/3fdThxyvKN
But for a Wolves team that is hopeful of jumping into playoff contention this season, they can’t afford to have a slow start. While the team is currently 3-1, most of that success has come on the back of quality defense. The offense has struggled thus far as the team has only produced an offensive rating of 103.6. A mark that would have them 29th in the league for last season. While it is a small sample and the offense should continue to be that rough, it is worth noting that the spark needs to come sooner rather than later if this team is serious.
The offense did start humming against the Milwaukee Bucks in an impressive win on Wednesday night, but that was mostly thanks to the Wolves trio of Towns, Russell, and Edwards. Beasley went 2 for 6 from deep and ended the game with 6 points. In 4 games this season, he is averaging just 6.5 points on 22.2% shooting from three and 37.0% from the field. Not exactly the “super sixth man” role that many were hoping for. The hope was that Beasley would be an offensive engine for a second unit that lacks firepower, but instead he’s still been trying to find his groove.
I don’t want to drag Beasley through the mud too much, as he has actually impressed me in other facets of his game so far this season. We have witnessed some great defensive plays and activity from him so far and it seems that his playmaking has taken a decent step in the right direction. He hasn’t been awful, but the Timberwolves do need more.
I've been impressed with Malik Beasley's off ball defensive effort so far. He's been committed to playing quality low-man DEF by tagging the roller, recovering, and making the proper rotations to cover for teammates. pic.twitter.com/Z966wKMgFy— Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11) October 26, 2021
It is a positive that the Timberwolves have been able to be so successful in the win column without Beasley producing, but the time for positive impact to occur is now.
The numbers may look concerning, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As I mentioned before, Beasley didn't come into camp in the best shape of his career, but it’s becoming clear, especially over the past couple games, that he is working into game shape.
Fortunately for Beasley, he still has a coach who will get him into good spots and find him open looks, like this one.
Malik Beasley off-screen 3, good to see this one fall for Malik pic.twitter.com/ozBdYJOuWT— Timberwolves Clips (@WolvesClips) October 28, 2021
And this one.
Like this action for Malik Beasley a lot. Gotta engage him off screens for spot-ups.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) October 29, 2021
Beasley is only 4/18 from 3 so far this season (22.2%). But of the 109 highest-volume spot-up shooters last season, only three players generated more PPP than Beasley did in spot-up play types. pic.twitter.com/kVH5DYrW6P
The team as a whole has lacked on the offensive end, much of which likely has to do with the offensive system taking a back seat to defensive implementation during training camp this season.
As the team finds it’s identity offensively this season, Malik Beasley should slip right into his role once again. While it’d be highly unfair to expect a near 20 point per game season again from Beasley, I don’t think it is out of the question for him to give the Wolves 12-15 points a night on high efficiency from deep off the bench. The Wolves will need that as they start to face stiffer competition now that the season is rolling.
So, I’ll just leave you with this insanity as a hope for a brighter future.