Chris Finch believes Timberwolves have enough to replace Malik Beasley’s production

No one will feel sorry for the Timberwolves being without Malik Beasley for the next 12 games, starting Saturday in Washington.

Everyone has had a good idea for a long time that a suspension from the league was coming, and would closely follow the conclusion of the legal case stemming from the September incident at his Plymouth residence.

But that doesn’t lessen the effect on the roster. Beasley has been the one constant for the Wolves in a turbulent season. The 24-year-old guard has started all 33 games to this point, is easily the team’s most dangerous shooting threat and is averaging 20.5 points a game.

It’s not like 7-26 teams can easily replace players. Particularly when Minnesota’s other potent perimeter scorer — D’Angelo Russell — may also still be out another month as he recovers from knee surgery.

Still, less than a week into his job as Wolves head coach, Chris Finch’s message to his team Friday was simple: “We have plenty enough left on the roster to be able to cover for what Malik has given us.”

Finch said that, for now, the Wolves have to move forward with the team they have. While Beasley can still practice, he’s not likely to get the first-team reps in an attempt to keep him ingrained with the other starters.

“When Malik comes back, it will be up to us and to him to try to get back to the swing of things,” Finch said. “Unfortunately for Malik, he’ll have to play catch-up. That’s just how it’s going to be.”

Until then, it’s up the Wolves to win with what they have.

“We’re not expecting any one person to jump up and give us 20 points,” Finch said. “We can do it with a series of small gains. A little bit better defense, a little more rebounding, taking care of the ball, letting the system create some shots for people. And then there is going to be opportunity. There is going to be an opportunity for a lot of these guys to get in there and make something happen for themselves, prove that they deserve a little more playing time, perhaps.”

Josh Okogie, last year’s starting shooting guard, has seen his minutes drastically reduced in recent weeks. Jarrett Culver is back from an ankle sprain that caused him to miss a month of action and is looking to return to the rotation. And then there is Jaylen Nowell.

The second-year guard has emerged as a scoring threat this season, seizing a rotational spot in the process. He’s not exactly the same player as Beasley, but he can provide some of the same things to the lineup with his shooting and scoring.

Finch said the coaching staff has yet to decide on who will start in place of Beasley. That decision was tabled until Saturday. The Wolves could even go big and slide Anthony Edwards down to shooting guard and make Jaden McDaniels the starting small forward. But if Finch is looking to simply plug in a player for Beasley and go, Nowell might make the most sense in the starting lineup.

“That’d mean everything. It’s everything that I work for. It’d be my first start, so obviously that’s a big accomplishment,” Nowell said. “If that happens, it’s cool. If it doesn’t, it’s cool, too. I’ve just got to make sure that I stay level-headed and make sure that I can do everything that I can to get a win.”

Regardless, starter or not, Nowell’s opportunities are sure to increase over the next month. While Nowell has been one of the primary creators and scorers for the second unit this season, he may now get more minutes alongside the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns.

“He makes it easy for everyone on the court,” Nowell said of Towns. “So I know when I’m on the court with him, it’s going to be real simple, so I’m excited about that.”

If and when he does play more minutes than the 16 per game he’s seen thus far this season, Nowell plans to be the same player. He has averaged nine points on 44 percent shooting to this point. Playing his game has given him success, so why change now?

“I’m not going to go out there and force anything. I’m not going to go out there looking to put up more shots and just step outside myself,” Nowell said. “I’m going to keep playing the way I’m playing, and make sure I’m not going to overthink it. I’m just going to play my game.”


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