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2021-22 Minnesota Timberwolves Season Review: Malik Beasley

It took Beasley a moment to get going, but he eventually found his form

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Following a rocky offseason, Malik Beasley was somewhat understandably not in the best shape of his life. For a player whose game revolves around flying off screens, stopping on a dime, and rising to shoot, being in peak physical shape is paramount. Beasley wasn’t, and therefore started the season ice cold, making just 32.1% of his three-point shots in November.

It just took Beasley time to play himself into shape this year, but sure enough, Malik did round into form. By the All-Star Break, Beasley had elevated his 3P% to 35.3%, before connecting on a sizzling 45.2% of his threes after the ASB. That is who Malik Beasley is, he’s a shooter, and he’s genuinely one of the best in the world.

We already knew that, though, after Beasley connected on 39.9% of his nearly nine 3PA per game in 2020-21. There are few players in the league who can match Beasley’s ability to make a high percentage of a high volume of threes, most of which are coming off of movement. Beas is always a threat to explode. He’s a walking 9-0 run when he’s going right, which is what makes him valuable. Even when the shots aren’t falling, he’s earned the respect of defenses to the point that they defend him as if they can’t leave him anyways.

The question, then, for Malik Beasley on the basketball court is what else can he bring to the table besides his shooting, and how he fits into Minnesota’s future plans.

Room for improvement

While Beasley’s shooting returning to his norm in the second half of the season was the big story, he really earned his minutes by coupling that shooting by playing improved team defense in Minnesota’s high-wall scheme. In many ways, it was the perfect fit for a player like Beasley. Beas isn’t necessarily an elite athlete, but he is a good one, and he played better in a scheme that relied a bit more on instinct and athleticism than being overly precise with rotations in the half-court.

As his offense improved, so did his defense. Beasley wasn’t an All-Defense candidate by any means, but he was genuinely competent on that end of the floor over the second-half of the season.

The question now becomes, can he repeat that? Can that be the norm? Can he improve upon that to eventually become a borderline asset on defense? He’s probably unlikely to ever be that good, but it was encouraging to see him take genuine strides on that end of the floor.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Memphis Grizzlies v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The other area I think Beasley could work to improve is as a rebounder. This was a bad rebounding team, and that’s the responsibility of everyone on the team to correct. Surely, it falls more on the front court players the guards, but it is a team battle. Anything Beasley could contribute on that end of the floor would help his standing in the rotation.

Where do we go from here?

The real question is now where do the Wolves and Beasley go moving forward. He’s owed roughly $15.5 million next season before a team option 2023-24, so in a sense he is an expiring contract if the Wolves (or another team) believe that is what makes him the most attractive asset possible. Because of his salary number, the length (or lackthereof) of the deal, and his play, he is the most likely player to be moved along with a pick if the Wolves look to upgrade.

What makes the discussion around Malik so difficult is that players of his archetype are just volatile players by nature, and it’s even intentional. Part of the thought process around the emphasis on three-point shooting is that, while it is a naturally volatile shot diet, good shooters will hit the upper-bounds of that volatility often enough for it to work out.

As mentioned before, we saw both sides of this come into play this year. While Beas started slow and then picked it up, he did struggle again in the playoffs ... except for in Game 1, when he played a huge role as Minnesota defeated Memphis on the road.

Was it worth it for Minnesota to take the bad (32% from 3 for the playoffs) in order to get one huge performance that, along with Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, essentially won them the game? In all, it probably was not, but it is hard to overstate how important his 23 points on 14 shots was in Game 1, and it forces you to think big picture a bit. What if Beasley had been able to put together just two games like that, instead of one? Then, is there enough good to cancel out the bad? Probably, and it’s what makes making decisions on these players over such a small sample of postseason games so difficult.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Anyways, assuming he is on the team moving forward, Beasley will likely continue to be the sharpshooter off the bench. He’ll be asked and relied upon to put the ball in the basket, and to continue to improve as a defender.

To me, he sounds like someone who would make for a perfect complement/pair with Jarred Vanderbilt. Keeping Beasley on the floor offensively with Vando makes it much more difficult for the opposition to roam off of Vando. His shooting is far too dangerous to leave in rotation, which effectively neutralizes opposing doubles. On the other side of the floor, Vando helps insulate Beas in the event that his defense falls off a bit.

For Beasley to be the best version of himself on this team, his defense needs to continue to improve to round out his game. The Wolves are never going to ask him to be a playmaker or do much off the dribble, so all of his value needs to come from shooting and defense. There are ways for him to make the team much, much better, as long as he is committed to being a star in his role.

While he is one of my favorite players, his game still has enough uncertainties that his future with the organization is in question. If the Wolves were to try to upgrade, his salary and skill make for an obvious match with a pick for another player in the $20 million range. Could Tim Connelly be the first executive to trade the same player away from two different organizations (don’t fact check that)? That remains to be seen, but I’ve appreciated getting to see Malik Beasley shoot the ball for the Wolves.