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The Timberwolves Gave Malik Beasley An Opportunity That He Took Advantage Of
SG | 6’4, 187 lbs.
2019-20 With Denver Nuggets: 41 games, 0 starts, 18.2 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 38.9 FG%, 36.0 3P%, 86.8 FT%
2019-20 With Minnesota Timberwolves: 14 games, 14 starts, 33.1 MPG, 20.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 47.2 FG%, 42.6 3P%, 75.0 FT%
Acquiring D’Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors was the talk of Minnesota in the months leading up to the NBA’s Feb. 6 trade deadline. The Timberwolves were obviously successful in bringing Russell to Minnesota, but another trade deadline acquisition also galvanized fans upon his arrival in Minnesota.
That player and newest fan favorite is Malik Beasley.
The Timberwolves acquired Beasley in a Feb. 5 four-team trade and were excited to welcome in a player who had yet to uncover much of his potential after serving as a role player for the Denver Nuggets in the first three and a half years of his NBA career. But it’s unclear whether anyone knew just how much Beasley would thrive in Minnesota.
Beasley talked a big game during his introductory press conference on Feb. 7, promising a long-term growth for his new franchise, but it didn’t take him long to show he didn’t take his words lightly.
The next night, Beasley shook Target Center by recording 23 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and one steal in the Wolves’ 142-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The win fueled by Beasley concluded the Wolves’ 13-game losing streak and delighted fans who were enthralled with the team’s newly-added outside shooter who went 7-for-13 that night. Beasley’s fiery intensity and lack of hesitation was warmly welcomed right from the get-go.
Beasley’s performance against the Clippers wasn’t some one-and-done thrill either.
Beasley averaged 20.7 points per game in his first 14 games with the Wolves, becoming the team’s third-leading scorer for the final month of the season just behind Karl-Anthony Towns, who only played in two of those games due to a wrist injury, and Russell.
Beasley averaged a team-high 8.2 3PAs during that stretch and connected on 42.6% of them after shooting just 36.0% from deep in his final 41 games with Denver.
Beasley only scored less than 10 points in one of his first 14 games with the Wolves but quickly became a player fans could count on to impact games even on the rare nights his shooting slumped. He recorded six or more rebounds in five games and four or more assists in three. Plus, he reliably riled up a crowd with the nine dunks he made during his first stint with the Wolves.
Behind the scenes, Beasley emerged as a gym rat who was consistently working on his craft. His passion for the game became evident early on, and that resonated with spectators and fans.
Unfortunately, the best stretch of Beasley’s career came to an abrupt halt on March 11 when the NBA’s season was suspended due to the spread of COVID-19. Beasley only played in two games with Towns prior to the hiatus, making the evaluation of his long-term fit with the Wolves somewhat murky.
But here’s what we do know.
Beasley and Russell, the Wolves’ next-in-line cornerstone after Towns, played in 12 games and 604 non-garbage-time possessions together. They averaged 116.1 points per 100 possessions played (91st percentile), a 54.8% effective field goal percentage (80th) and a 13.1% turnover percentage (83rd). They finished with a net rating of -2.3, which was both players’ best two-player rating.
The duo has potential to be one of the most productive backcourts the Wolves have put forth in quite some time — at least on offense.
Beasley and Russell have the most room for growth on the defensive end where they allowed opponents to rack up a 58.6% effective field goal percentage and recorded a defensive rating of 115.6.
The defensive end cannot be avoided if Beasley wants to make good on his Feb. 7 words of eventually guiding his new team to the top of the Western Conference. And knowing Beasley, it won’t be.
Beasley and Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas appeared for a virtual media availability session on April 22, and Beasley let those in attendance for the Zoom call know he was already investing in his defensive progression.
“I feel like I can improve a lot (defensively),” Beasley said. “I have great athletic ability to do the things I need to do. I feel like, for me, it’s more mental, learning the things like that.”
Beasley showed us a limited role in the first three and a half seasons of his career was not going to deter his growth when he came to Minnesota. If he can keep that resiliency and apply it to his defensive game this offseason, he’ll be invaluable to the Wolves as they work to achieve their shared long-term goals.