What if I told you the Minnesota Timberwolves made the best trade of the 2021 offseason? There’s certainly an argument to be made.
One sip into my second cup of coffee of the day on August 17, Woj hit the basketball world with another bomb. Patrick Beverley was heading to Minnesota for two failed experiments in Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez. The immediate reaction was widely shared, minus Memphis fans trying to talk themselves into the move for a former No. 6 pick: POBO Gersson Rosas crushed the trade, moving literally nothing of value for a player type the team was in desperate need of.
It was Rosas’ final act as the lead decision-maker and a brilliant one at that.
Beverley needed the Wolves, too. A team that would believe in him as much as he believes in himself. And so the match made in heaven began.
The Memphis Grizzlies are trading Patrick Beverley to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jarrett Culver and Juancho Hernangomez, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 17, 2021
When reflecting on Beverley’s first season with the Wolves, it’s hard not to see it as a massive success.
They traded for toughness, leadership, and experience in a position of need. They got that in Beverley and much, much more, making his weaknesses pretty minor. But let’s quickly review those anyway before we get into the bulk of this very positive and well-earned review. He had his worst shooting season since 2014-15 with .406/.343/.722 (.539 true shooting %) and at times could get tunnel vision while driving to the cup (a minor criticism) and try too hard to draw fouls. Of course, he also had the best free throw rate of his career at .305 (number of free throw attempts per field goal attempt.) but his struggles from the line (72%) hurt now and again.
He can also be penciled in to miss games given his injury history, age (33), and rugged playing style. The best ability is availability, right! Well, Pat’s primary weakness is that he’s going to sit out. (He started 54 of the 58 games he played during the season.) Sometimes his hot-headedness can also be detrimental when he’s too focused on riding the refs, arguing with opponents, and getting technicals. The Wolves mirror Beverley’s energy, and while it’s a trade-off you’ll always take, sometimes he can lead them astray.
These “negatives” so to speak, are also widely known and always felt fairly easy for Chris Finch and the team to manage and control. His injuries ultimately weren’t crippling the win column; the team had really strong replacement options in Malik Beasley, Jordan McLaughlin, and Jaylen Nowell when Beverley couldn’t go. They went 13-11 without him in the lineup.
Now for the praise. First, the team constantly praised him for changing their mentality and showing them the way. In many respects, he was a one-man culture changer. He became the tone-setter and key element in helping them build a band of brothers for a franchise that hasn’t seen that type of camaraderie and togetherness off the court for a long time. They added a guy with talent and grit, someone that gave them swagger, someone who had been where they wanted to go.
It’s fair to wonder if all the Wolves Back and Good Vibes stuff even would’ve happened without Pat Bev in the fold, pushing everyone along the way as the battle-tested, outspoken leader of the pack. That’s the thing with him. His basic stats (9.2 points, 4.6 dimes, 4.1 rebounds) are never going to tell the real story of his immense value to team success. The 5-man starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Beverley, Anthony Edwards, Jared Vanderbilt, and Karl-Anthony Towns played 438 minutes together and were an outstanding +12.3 per 100 possessions. How much of that was due to the two guys flying around with purpose defensively (Bev and Vando) and creating havoc at every turn so the BIG 3 scorers could do what they do best?
His defense was among the best in the league, whether All-NBA voters say it or not. He was 9th in deflections per game at 2.7, via the NBA.com hustle leaderboard stats, and also 9th best in defensive box plus-minus at 2.1, which tied him with Bam Adebayo. His 2.2 steal percentage was the 20th best in the league, as he often ripped the rock out of the hands of the opposition, starting transition hoops. How much the Wolves' leap to 13th in defensive rating at 111.7 (via basketball reference) was due to their new defensive captain is certainly up for debate.
Beverley gave Wolves fans so many wonderful memories in his first campaign. He borrowed Crunch’s T-shirt cannon during a timeout (shout-out to Mike for capturing the video for us) as the bench acted like it was Mardi Gras during a blowout win—that was a common theme during his first season.
He had a couple of unforgettable press conferences, like this one after the play-in tournament win over his former Clippers squad.
Or this one, where he declared: “I’m a winner. I win on and off the court.”
He sat with Jim Petersen for an awesome one-on-one film session that provided another great glimpse into how Beverley views the game. He’s a tactician like Finch is.
He rocked the baby to sleep in front of one of his many basketball enemies, Russell Westbrook, and pissed off plenty of other guys along the way. But what he also was doing was giving the Wolves the character they’ve often lacked.
There is a reason everyone says he’s only likable when he is on your team. No one wants to go up against a guy like Beverley or deal with his feistiness or pettiness. He’s annoying and intense and a defensive mastermind that can prop up an entire unit. Nobody inspired the crowd at Target Center quite as he did—he brings the Pat Bev out of everyone in attendance. The I love Pat Bev shirts designed by @jakesgraphs were seen everywhere during home games.
When your favorite player is cooking early pic.twitter.com/mLaiEmSKCZ— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 21, 2022
He was a significant part of another vital franchise exorcism, much like Game 82 vs. the Nuggets a couple of years back. Wolves fans won’t soon forget Bev and Ant Edwards jumping up on the scorer's table as KG did, nor all of the ridiculous backlash in the days that followed. That’s what Beverley ultimately does. He gets under people’s skin, and that’s what he’ll continue to provide.
Rewarded with a one-year extension for $13 million, Beverley will almost certainly be back next season, even as Tim Connelly takes over as the new President of Basketball Operations. Nothing will change about him, and that’s perfect for the Wolves because Pat Bev spent the last year proving his worth.