Malik Beasley won the right to stay

A friend of mine, who is my age (28), texted me the other day. “I’ll be honest,” he said. “I never thought I’d see T-Wolves 2 games over .500 again in my lifetime.”

After Sunday night’s game against the Detroit Pistons, the Minnesota Timberwolves went three (!!!) games above .500. Quality performances from franchise stalwarts Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell helped lift the team into another “should-win” game. Detroit was missing Cade Cunningham, of course. But it was still a match that the “Old Wolves” would have found a way to lose.

That was the feeling, according to Malik Beasley, at least. When asked whether or not Minnesota learned anything as a team, Beasley said in his postgame interview that “last year we would have lost those two games. [to the Pistons].” He’s not wrong.

Admittedly at the risk of beating a dead horse, it’s fair to say that this Timberwolves team is different this year. Many catalysts helped maintain this winning formula. But Beasley’s rise of late has taken up the slack that has been missing throughout the season. When Beasley leaves, this current iteration of Wolves is nearly unstoppable.

So, is it worth keeping? Or should Sachin Gupta trade it now when its value is high?

There’s no doubt Beasley has been a shell of the 20 PPG, 40 percent 3-point shooting player who signed a 4-year, $60 million deal last season. He’s averaging 12.1 points per game while shooting 34.8% from three this season. Both are at their lowest since Minnesota traded him, and most of the season has been frustrating. Beasley offers little outside of his shot, and he looked set to lose his place in the regular rotation to a rapidly rising Jaylen Nowell.

However, the self-proclaimed “hypeman for our team” has recently come into its own. In 10 games since Jan. 16, Beasley has shot 38.5% from three by Cleaning the Glass. His three-point corner percentage is 35% in those games, but he’s made 40% of his three-point shots without a corner. Those numbers should be even higher after Sunday night’s win over the Pistons, where Beasley shot 5-9 of 3 (55.6%) and had 20 points in 22 minutes off the bench.

Beasley shot 34% from three in 42 games before Minnesota’s victory over Detroit. There’s no doubt Wolves’ offense came to life when Beasley started shooting the ball effectively. The Timberwolves pay Beasley to shoot the ball. When he can’t do that, his 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game on the season don’t do much to win. If his shot goes down, it eases the burden on almost everyone else on the team. Beasley’s defense is suspect and almost non-existent. But when his shot drops, it masks other apparent shortcomings in his game.

Beasley’s resurgence has put Wolves in a tough spot. Like Gersson Rossas, Gupta hasn’t been shy about expressing his desire to make trades to improve the squad. Almost everyone’s speculative board has Beasley as the lead candidate to be moved in exchange for a complementary cast member.

Of course, Minnesota could trade Beasley now. That wouldn’t be wise, though.

Moving Beasley for an unproven fit would be a big risk at this point. The Timberwolves have lacked continuity recently, and giving up a key player and personality probably wouldn’t sit well with many veterans of the team. It’s a novel idea to bring in another big one to complete the towns and take a few minutes off of Naz Reid. But the safest bet for the future would be to roll with Beasley – especially if a notional deal involved a future capital project in exchange.

Sticking to Thursday’s trade deadline won’t generate buzz, but it’s the right move. Minnesota’s past has shown that mortgaging future asset projects solely for one- or two-year leases does not work. This team finally has a cohesive youth movement that seems to enjoy playing with each other and find ways to win consistently. I say that unwillingly. However, this team cannot perform at their best without their shooting prowess. As long as Beasley can shoot consistently, he has a vital role on this team.

As Beasley grows in his role on the team, he also becomes a critical voice and role model. He has played every game this year and has shown his durability. Beasley is instilling confidence on the bench, recently declaring that Wolves have the “best bench in the league”. He is becoming the exact type of reliable player and personality that every competing team wants on their bench. And for that, he has more than earned the right to stay. Here’s hoping it’s the right move for the Timberwolves.

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