Malik Beasley’s experience was a wild ride. I loved watching him play with endless energy, passion and, of course, endless confidence. As they say, Malik never saw a shot that he didn’t like.
Last year Beasley was great for the Timberwolves. His $ 60 million, 4-year contract was starting to feel like a steal, as he averaged almost 20 points per game and shot 40% on three at high volume. He looked like a valuable prospect. Sadly, those days are behind us.
When he signed that deal, there was a buzz in the air that he would end up being moved into a package to try and upgrade the roster. With one of Minnesota’s young prospects and the expiring deals of Taurean Prince or Patrick Beverley, Beasley has always felt like the typical basis for a trade deal that could make Wolves an impact player.
However, Beasley’s contract looks less like an asset and more like an albatross right now. I don’t want to overreact to this crisis he found himself in because crises happen. But we’re getting to the middle of the season and Beasley hasn’t been able to find consistency.
He certainly hasn’t lost confidence. Beasley is shooting 34% from behind the arc at slightly higher volume than his 2020-21 campaign. He’s reached 15.6 3 points per 100 possessions so far this season – he shot 12.5 per 100 last year. That higher volume of three makes sense given the tightening mentality that Chris Finch’s Timberwolves have embraced.
Wolves are first in the league in 3-point attempts while placing 23rd in percentage. Oddly enough, Beasley, Edwards and Russell are sixth, seventh and eighth respectively in 3-point-per-game attempts. Beasley is third in a total of three attempts. Volume on everything.
Beasley has a team option at the end of his contract which gives Minnesota a lot of flexibility as it makes him a more valuable asset in trade negotiations. After this season, his contract can work the same as an expiring contract. If Wolves or their potential business partner aren’t happy, they can take Beasley off their ledger by 2023. But if he exceeds his contract, this squad option year becomes incredibly useful for any franchise. Free agency can be fickle. For many teams, it can be difficult to find a player who plays at a $ 16 million level, and Beasley can earn $ 16.5 million in his option year.
The Timberwolves are in financial trouble. Currently, they sit just below the luxury tax line, meaning there is no rush to leave Beasley. If Wolves chose to move Beasley’s guaranteed money next year for a contract that expires after this season, they could open up a lot of flexibility during the offseason. Wolves don’t have so many options to have a practical ceiling space.
There was early speculation that they were interested in Beverley’s extension. He’s currently making $ 13 million, but he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career, so we might see the 33-year-old keeper getting a raise. Additionally, if Wolves are to enter restricted free agency with Josh Okogie, his $ 12 million cap makes matters even more difficult. Taking Beasley’s $ 15 million off the books next season might at least save Wolves from more complicated machinations in the future to stay under the luxury tax.
Even in a perfect world where the Wolves have managed to create $ 15million in ceiling space, the likelihood that they could sign a player as good or better than Beasley is slim. So, what is it for ? Why not ride with him and see if he can recapture that 2019-2020 magic?
Personally, I want to open the trail for Jaylen Nowell. He played the best basketball of his career and I think he has the potential to grow even more. Beasley has the potential to be a dangerous deep shooter. But it lacks other skills that decrease its value on the second unit. Wolves lack a playmaker and Beas hasn’t proven to be a great facilitator or the ability to attack the dribble effectively.
On the other hand, Nowell has shown the first signs of being a primary ball manager. He also showed the ability to heat remotely, much like Malik. Unless Beas can get back into shape, shooting over 40% from the depths, Nowell’s skill diversity ultimately seems more valuable to Wolves, and it comes down to around an eighth the price.
The price of unloading Beasley’s salary is a whole different conversation. The first option that comes to mind is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have to take a salary before the end of the season as they are roughly $ 12 million below the team’s minimum wage. Sam Presti is a well-known draft-pick hoarder. By acquiring Miye Oni from Utah Jazz, he has already started to take over assets from luxury teams to get rid of the excess salary on OKC. At this point, I’m not sure it’s worth using draft equity to offload Beasley.
Perhaps Wolves could sign up with another team that will have no wiggle room next season and want it as a ‘first free agent acquisition’. That is, essentially moving offers and expiring assets on their roster to get ready for next season. We’ve seen the Cleveland Cavaliers pull this move on a number of occasions, once acquiring Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons, and then again when they snuck into the James Harden deal to acquire Jarrett Allen. The Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics are all teams that might be looking to shake things up, but lack the financial flexibility to do so.
Beasley’s top-down play really complicated things for Wolves. He’s never been the ideal person next to DLo and Ant, and his inconsistency pushed him even further from relevance. Beasley needs to find his shot and pace from last season if he hopes to retain a starring role on this team or find another home.