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Midseason Review: Malik Beasley

Beasley hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm during the first half of the 2021-22 season.

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

When the Minnesota Timberwolves re-signed Malik Beasley to a four-year, $60 million contact before the 2020-21 season, they expected him to continue what he does best: shoot the three well and play with energy on offense.

He still plays hard, but he’s struggled with consistent shooting.

Quick reminder before things get negative: Beasley scored 20 points in 15 minutes in his first game as a Wolf.

In 51 games with the Timberwolves during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Beasley averaged 20.2 PPG on 41.3% shooting from three. Through 47 games this season, Beasley is shooting just 34.9% from three and scoring 12 points per game.

Simply put, Beasley just isn’t as involved this year. He’s taking 11.5 shots per game, down from his average of 16.4 through his first 51 games with the Wolves. However, his season average for attempted three-pointers is almost the same as the past two seasons. It’s from two where he’s not as involved, or just isn’t getting as many looks.

This makes sense, as Beasley was a key piece of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 Wolves teams. His 17.9% usage this season places him in the 19th percentile for his position. Last year, he had 21.8% usage, good for 62nd percentile, according to cleaning the glass. Beasley has never really been a player that creates for himself or others, as he does most of his damage behind the three-point line, but that's still a significant decrease.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

With a somewhat fully healthy team this year, there are better options available for the Wolves to draw up plays for. Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell are all above Beasley in the pecking order (always have been, was just complicated with injuries), and the acquisition of Patrick Beverley took Beasley out of the starting lineup. The emergence of Jaylen Nowell over the last month or so doesn’t help his case, either.

Because he isn’t great off the dribble, doesn’t create for others much, isn’t a very good rebounder, and isn’t great defensively, it can be hard to make a case for Beasley being on the floor when he’s not hitting shots. But at the same time, the best way to get into a groove is to see a few shots go through, and you can't do that from the bench. He can theoretically space the floor and open things up for others just by being out there, but his limitations still exist in those scenarios.

When Beasley started nine games at the end of December and beginning of January, he averaged 18.8 PPG. He still wasn’t particularly efficient, but he was more involved. He averaged 17.3 shot attempts per game during that stretch, playing 34.2 minutes per game.

In his defense, many of the league’s best shooters have off nights and shooting slumps. It’s not uncommon. It takes time to get back into a rhythm, but it takes a lot of work to get into a rhythm in the first place. There have been a number of things that have happened in Beasley’s life over the last three-ish years that would affect just about anyone's rhythm. Since 2019, he has had his first child, been traded, nearly got divorced, had a career-best season, signed a $60 million contract, spent 78 days in jail, lost his spot in the starting lineup, seen his role diminish, and, like the rest of us, has been living through a pandemic.

Regardless of his actions being right or wrong, these are all things that would alter anyone's job performance. I’m not saying he should get a pass for poor play, I just think it’s important context. With just two weeks remaining until the NBA Trade Deadline (scheduled for February 10), Malik’s name will definitely be one to monitor as the Timberwolves look around the league for potential deals.