Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders was getting ready to do one more interview Friday, standing beside an escalator at City Center, when a voice came from above.
“Hey Coach, we got practice,” said Malik Beasley, who was on his way up — which if you’re a Wolves fan, you should hope is a metaphor. “Let’s go, now. Talk to the media later.”
He can’t wait.
Friday’s unveiling of essentially a new Wolves roster felt like a film epic: D’Angelo Russell and a cast of thousands in downtown Minneapolis. With fans stopping to watch as the new roster was unveiled. With so many new players they were introduced in waves, like line changes at a hockey game.
Russell, of course, was the headliner. He was the prize Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas had been stalking for months.
But there are other players fans should be intrigued about as well. Here are two: Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez.
Both acquired from Denver, they are different players in similar situations. Two talented players whose opportunity was limited on the Nuggets’ rather deep roster. Two players — Beasley a shooting guard, Hernangomez a versatile power forward — who figure to get a lot more opportunities here.
“Now I just have to take advantage of it,” Beasley said to the crowd.
We likely won’t have to wait long. Nothing is yet set in stone, but Beasley is the odds-on favorite to be the shooting guard in a starting lineup that could include Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell, Hernangomez and perhaps Josh Okogie as the other wing.
Beasley is a shooter whose numbers have usually grown more efficient as he’s played more minutes. Hernangomez’s versatility on defense should be a huge plus for the Wolves. Both were first-round picks in the 2016 draft — Hernangomez was the No. 15 overall pick, Beasley No. 19 — and both will be restricted free agents after a 32-game audition here.
“We believe in those guys,” Rosas said of Beasley and Hernangomez. “We’ve studied them pretty deep, even from the draft before they came into the league. They come from a very successful program. They have a level of talent that we needed in our program. And they have a fit to our system. We needed another guard, in Malik, who can attack the basket, that can shoot but is a two-way guy, who has the physical tools [on defense] that we didn’t have at that position.”
“He is what we want our power forwards to be,” Rosas said. “He needs to continue to improve his shooting, but his running the floor, his offensive rebounding, his ability to space the floor in different ways, his versatility to play different positions defensive, these are things we value.’’
Hernangomez was a 40.7% shooter from three-point range as a rookie before those numbers dropped off. He is a steady rebounder who can also distribute the ball.
“He’ll be an athletic big who will get up and down the floor,” Saunders said. “I think he can shoot the ball. He’s a good cutter. He’ll put the ball on the floor at that slot position. I’m excited to see that.”
Beasley is a career 38.2% shooter on threes, most of which are catch-and-shoots, something the Wolves are looking for.
And, from the sound of Friday, he can’t wait to show what can do with more time on the court. Saunders said Beasley was still at the team’s facility, shooting, when he left for home at 11 p.m. Thursday. By 8 a.m. Friday, Beasley was back, shooting.
At Friday’s event, Beasley already showed a flair for pleasing the fans. “Give us time,” he said, “and we’ll show you we’re the best team in the West.”