Beverley the Wolf: Recapping the Trade

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“Mr. 94 Feet” is coming to Minneapolis! Patrick Beverley, the boisterously tenacious veteran guard is destined for the Wolves in a trade that sees Minnesota send out forwards Juancho Hernangomez and Jarrett Culver. While I assumed the Wolves would find a way to bring in a veteran guard as their backup to D’Angelo Russell, I have to say I did not see a scenario that brought them the former Clipper and Rocket. Let’s look at the trade, and figure out why each team would have made this deal.

 

The Trade

The Memphis Grizzlies traded recently acquired guard Patrick Beverley to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Juancho Hernangomez and Jarrett Culver. Beverley has 1 year left on his $14.3 million contract while Hernangomez and Culver each have 2 years left with a team option on the end at $6.9 million and $6.4 million respectively. Overall the Wolves took back $1 million more than they sent out, cramping their financial ledger a bit but certainly not hindering future flexibility. No future draft picks were involved in this trade.

 

The Players

Starting with the 2 players the Wolves sent out. You have known them for most of the last 2 years, but let’s recap Juancho and Jarrett.

 

Juancho Hernangomez is a 25 year old forward who has spent the past season and a half with Minnesota. In his 1st season with the Wolves, 14 games, he was a lights out shooter at 42% on 5 3pt. attempts per game. At 6’9″ that is very valuable! He was resigned that offseason to a 3 year contract and promptly underwhelmed in the 20–21 season. He shot 32% from the 3pt. line, was a complete liability on defense, and found himself towards the end of the rotation for a bad Wolves team. Not exactly a scorching hot asset at the moment.

 

Jarrett Culver was the 6th pick in the 2019 draft for the Timberwolves. I personally had a lot of faith in JC becoming a ball handling wing that could be trusted on defense and would grow into a key part of the Wolves future. Unfortunately the signs that he could become anything resembling that type of player have dwindled. In his rookie season Culver was able to receive consistent playing time in a lost season, but his confidence in his offensive game waxed and waned throughout the year. At times he looked the part of a rim-attacking wing that could hit a few shots from beyond the arc. Other times he looked afraid to make a mistake and would disappear from the action. Culver’s defense stayed relatively consistent (and encouraging!) throughout his rookie year showing the ability to slide with guards and some good hands in the passing lanes to get deflections. He averaged 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks Per 36 Minutes during that 19–20 season which seemed to lay the groundwork for a developmental leap in the 20–21 season.That leap never came. Culver’s confidence seemed to leave him early in the campaign and he never recovered as he shot 24% from the 3pt. line, fouled too much on defense, and only played in 34 games in a rough injury-riddled season. There very well may be an NBA player in there somewhere, but it was difficult to see where it would happen with the Wolves.

 

And now to Beverley, the point guard who has appeared in playoff games in 7 different seasons, including the previous 3. At 33 years old he may be nearing the end of his run. but his career has been spent on good teams next to great players including James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George. Offensively Bev is an excellent complement to ball-dominant stars with his consistently good 3pt. shooting (38% for his career) and his tenacious, unwavering, and annoyingly constant effort on the defensive end. As a point of attack defender he will endlessly bug every star ball handler he faces and mixes that with a veteran savvy off the ball to be in the right places and lay his body on the line when necessary. For Beverley, the bottom line is that he has always been on good teams AND his teams have been better with him on the court than with him off the court. The greater NBA fan-o-sphere may be irritated with his “Mr. 94 Feet” reputation, but the fact remains that he has always been the player you hate playing against but love when he is on your team.

 

Why the Grizzlies Did It

Now the fun part. Why did this agreement happen? By all accounts (Twitter accounts that is) Grizzlies fans seem to be very happy about this deal, mostly because of the Culver aspect.

 

If you are not familiar with Chris Vernon, he is a radio host with Grind City Media in Memphis (along with a couple other gigs with The Ringer). He’s a good listen! He seems to be in favor of the deal and a quick look at the replies to his Tweet from Grizzlies fans seems to paint a picture of gratitude for this trade being made.

 

I completely understand from an outside perspective why this would look like a solid deal for the Grizzlies. A young team swaps a 33 year old guard on an expiring contract for a 22 year old former lottery pick who has been in a bad situation and a 25 year old forward that theoretically can be a floor spacer. If needed they can move on from both after next season (although I would assume they pick up Culver’s 4th year option) as well. They are basically taking a lottery ticket instead of a guy who could certainly help them but plays a position of which they have plenty of depth. All of that makes sense in a vacuum, but these moves are not made in a vacuum. The reality is that Memphis already has a crowded rotation, and they acquired 2 players that barely cracked the rotation for a 23-win team last season.

 

Juancho Hernangomez is likely not as bad as his play suggested last season, but even if he improves offensively it was really his defense that made him borderline unplayable. For a team that has Jaren Jackson Jr, Xavier Tillman, Brandon Clarke, and Kyle Anderson that should see minutes at the power forward position it is unlikely that Juancho will have much of a chance to improve greatly on his previous seasons.

 

Jarrett Culver will be the real swing piece of this trade. He is the lottery ticket. Right now Memphis has several high level players at the SG/SF position that Culver would be vying for including Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and Desmond Bane. Kyle Anderson will also see some time at small forward and Memphis’ 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, Ziaire Williams, will surely see some developmental minutes. Injuries certainly will occur and open up playing time for Culver, but it is difficult to see how he will find consistent minutes even with a strong showing in training camp and the preseason. Jarrett probably needs consistent minutes to build confidence and continue developing the way that he needs to. For a team in Memphis that won a playoff game last season, will they be able to offer that type of situation for Culver? That is a question that will need answering.

 

Team building in the NBA is rarely linear. The Grizzlies have heavily tinkered with their 20–21 playoff team and turned it into a younger squad that may struggle a bit to keep up in the Western Conference. This trade seems like a great example of a half step backward to take a full step forward in a couple years. Will Jarrett Culver be able to contribute to that step forward? That remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Grizzlies did not see Beverley as a piece of their future.

 

Why the Wolves Did It

Why WOULDN’T they do it is the question! Most Wolves fans see this as a slam dunk acquisition, and generally I agree. But before I get into why this was a great pickup for Minnesota let me pull back the reins on the celebration quickly. Beverley is 33 years old and played in only 37 of 72 regular season games for Los Angeles last season as he nursed a broken wrist. Beverley is also only 6’1″ and is not a great playmaker or shot creator from the point guard position. Also the circumstances that led to dealing Jarrett Culver for a 33 year old guard are less than ideal. Culver was selected with the 6th overall pick just 2 years ago, and the Wolves had traded into that slot to grab him (although they wanted another player). Giving up on a high draft pick like that after such a short time to trade for a player that is significantly older is not usually advisable.

 

With that said, this is exactly the type of consolidation type move that I hoped for but was not sure would be available for the Wolves. It just so happens that a veteran player at a position of need was available, so Gersson Rosas & co. get a high grade from me here. I am not the first person to say it and I will not be the last. Patrick Beverley is exactly the type of player that this team needs heading into this season. A roster with some incredibly skilled young players gets a macro-dose of grit, experience, and tenacity.

 

One of the largest reasons Wolves fans may be over the moon with this trade is the lack of seemingly important assets that had to be sent out. Wolves fans were more or less resigned to Hernangomez and Culver returning this coming season but being buried on the bench. Now those two players have been turned into one quite useful player without sending away those precious future draft picks. It is not likely that Juancho and Jarrett were going to be able to make a positive impact on the Wolves anytime soon, so even if Beverley flames out the opportunity cost was too small to pass up.

 

Now where does Pat Beverley fit on this roster? It looks like he slides into the backup point guard on the depth chart, but while his position may say PG he is not used like a traditional PG. He does not often just walk the ball up the court and initiate the actions like Ricky Rubio. He does more of his ball handling in transition and in attacking closeouts where he is fully capable of making solid reads to pass or score. One statistic that surprised me however was that less than 30% of his 2pt. field goals have been assisted in his career, meaning he has been able to use a screen to get in the lane and finish. Most of his offensive contributions though will come from spot up 3’s when playing off of the stars around him. It is already easy to imagine Beverley spotting up in the corner for a 3 (where he shot 46% last season) while KAT and Ant run their high pick and pops. Having a shooter like Beverley next to those 2 stars just complicates the defense’s decisions even more. Beverley is smart and has been playing off of star players his entire career so it is likely he will find a way to fit in and make life easier for KAT and Ant fairly quickly. As a veteran he can be a stabilizer on the bench unit. As of now that unit could include dead-eye shooters like Malik Beasley and Taurean Prince, so Beverley could be used more often as an offensive initiator as they run actions to get those shooters good looks.

 

The defensive end is the real reason he was acquired however. A team that too often sleepwalks through defensive possessions will get a real wakeup call with Beverley on the floor. The energy and desire to guard the opposition’s best player at the point of attack will be contagious. For the price that the Wolves had to pay, it is hard to imagine finding a better solution than Pat Beverley as a defensive tone-setter. This trade looks solid on paper from a Wolves perspective, and if Beverley contributes similarly to his past couple of seasons it will likely go down as a win for the Timberwolves front office.

 

-Jerry W.