Before this season, Malik Beasley started all but one game in his tenure with the Timberwolves. In that time he shot 41% from three-point range.
This season, with the addition of Patrick Beverley, Beasley has started all but four games on the bench. He is shooting 34.8 % on three-pointers.
Beasley’s past two games have been among his best of this season — when he has started. He scored 22 points on 6-for-12 three-point shooting Tuesday at Dallas, then on Thursday turned in a season-high 33 with 7-for-16 three-point shooting in the Wolves’ 128-116 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City.
The Wolves have had to make do as their list of players in COVID-19 protocols grew to seven with the addition of Karl-Anthony Towns and McKinley Wright before Thursday’s game. It has also presented an opportunity for other players, Beasley among them. The Wolves might learn some things about their depth — and perhaps that Beasley as a starter is better than Beasley as a bench player.
Or maybe Beasley has just found his shot. He has had other games in which he seemed to have regained his form, only to follow those nights with more inconsistent performances.
“He’s shooting at a high level from three and getting a lot of good looks and staying really committed to it,” coach Chris Finch said. “There’s no second-guessing his shot. He’s locked in. He’s been really, really good. Mostly it’s just his shot selection is leading to good shots.”
Which has led to makes over the past few games.
The problem with inserting Beasley into the starting lineup is that the Wolves’ best five-man lineup is their current starting five when all are healthy — Towns, Beverley, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Anthony Edwards. That group has the best net rating (49.6) in the league for combinations that have played at least 100 minutes together.
A refocused Beasley could provide a lift when the Wolves get their regulars back. He will just likely have to keep up the production from the bench.
A few other Wolves got some expanded responsibilities against Utah. Jaden McDaniels had the ball in his hands more than he normally does, and McDaniels turned in a season-high 16 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists.
“He’s a really smart basketball player,” Finch said. “I liked the fact he was trying to take the game to [Jazz center Rudy] Gobert when they put Gobert on him. I think again he competed on [Utah guard Donovan] Mitchell. Tough kid to guard. But Jaden is going to be just fine.”
The only downside to McDaniels’ night was four turnovers.
“I’m real comfortable with the ball,” McDaniels said. “… Had a couple turnovers tonight. So it was just making the right reads.”
McDaniels saw his role expand on the floor. Jake Layman saw his role increase — by being on the floor at all. Layman has played only in mop-up duty for much of the season, but with the Wolves down nearly half the team, Layman got the start and scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
“I’ve been through that my whole career — up-and-down playing time, not playing for a lot of games, get thrown in one game,” Layman said. “I think I’m mentally ready for that no matter when it comes.”