Malik Beasley suffered an ankle sprain against the Dallas Mavericks at home last Friday and has missed the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors games. As we know with ankle sprains, he will be on a game-to-game, week-to-week basis – similar to Jaden McDaniels‘ injury. However, that puts your team in an uncertain position, and others will need to fill the minutes and roles of the sidelined players.
Beasley is the backup shooting guard, sixth man, and the shooter of the bench unit. Malik has had a roller-coaster season, shooting 48% from three after the All-Star Break compared to 35% before, but he is still a tough player to replace. Luckily for the Minnesota Timberwolves, it is the end of the season, and they know how to cover for his absence.
Malik averages 25 minutes per game and is almost exclusively the first player to sub in off the bench in the 1st quarter. Beasley also leads the team in 74 games played, having only missed one game before the injury due to personal reasons. Chris Finch sometimes plugged him in the closing lineup when his shot was falling or when they were facing an undersized opponent. That’s a big spot to fill for the bench players who are still available. Luckily the Wolves have two shooters who can fill that spot by simply increasing their minutes, Taurean Prince and Jaylen Nowell.
In his absence, these two can combine their skills to replicate and form a better version of Beasley. This season, Prince has excelled as a spot-up shooter, primarily positioning himself in the corner. He is shooting 45% from the corner three this season, filling a position of need for this team that they desperately needed last year.
On the other hand, Jaylen Nowell is more dynamic, using self-creation off the dribble to get to his spots in the midrange or the rim. He can also perform as a spot-up shooter, primarily on the wings.
Nowell’s mid-range separates him from Prince, shooting a combined 52.9% from the close-mid range. Many of these shots come with him pulling up in front of shot blockers and a high degree of difficulty. Nowell’s dynamic scoring will give the Wolves more opportunities off the bounce and open up the defense more for others around him.
Beasley not only has a strong role on the team, but his volume of shots and usage ranks highly. He is currently attempting the fourth-most shots on the team (10.8 a game) and the second-most threes per game (8.0). Others can easily pick up his volume. They’ve already had to make up for Jaden’s 8.1 attempts from the field, and 4.4 threes attempted a game.
It creates an opportunity for Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell to get back on track at a vital time in the season. Ant has struggled to get his footing, often deferring to others instead of shooting. He’s often been pigeonholed to the corner offensively in the halfcourt. Edwards is only attempting 14.8 shots a game in his last 10, compared to his season average of 17.2. He’s clearly not been as aggressive and appears to be still recovering from the knee injury.
Conversely, DLo is clearly in a slump, scoring only 11.7 ppg on 36/28/81 splits over his last 10 games. While he has done his normal facilitating with 7.4 assists per game, Russell has needed to step up in specific games and has not been able to. Finch has even sat him more situationally.
The open shot opportunities created by Beasley and McDaniels’ absences will allow Edwards and Russell to be more aggressive and assertive. That will create more of a three-headed monster with KAT, especially considering that Finch will likely increase their minutes with must-win games down the stretch. Even if they continue to struggle through their slumps, the only successful way to get out of a slump is to shoot more.
Most teams deal with injuries down the stretch. It just means that there will be changes to the rotation. Malik and Jaden should be ready come playoff/play-in time, but this stretch is still crucial for determining who will be critical parts of this rotation when the games matter most.