For the first two seasons of his NBA career, Malik Beasley played a total of 748 minutes. In year three, Beasley has nearly doubled his total minutes played, while ascending through the depth chart of a loaded Denver Nuggets’ roster. The Mile High City’s team is second in the Western Conference, just two games back of the Golden State Warriors. They lie ahead of teams such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, who coming into the season, were thought to be better than a team like Denver.
The Nuggets didn’t even make the playoffs last season. They lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves on the last day of the regular season, eliminating them from the postseason. Their turnaround as a team this season has been exceptional and somewhat shocking considering the talent in the west.
For what seems to be typical of a Nuggets’ season, they came into the season battling injuries and have seen multiple players go down for significant time during the year. This is where Denver’s remarkable depth came into play. Monte Morris, Jauncho Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley were all thrust into roles that may have seemed unexpected. All have started games this season when Denver’s typical starters to begin the year in Paul Millsap, Will Barton, and Gary Harris missed time due to injuries. While all three have performed admirably this season, one of these prospects stands out amongst the rest.
Malik Beasley has burst onto the scene as a two-way force that has given the Nuggets a new weapon to test on their foes. The third-year guard has become an uber-efficient offensive option in Denver, showcasing a phenomenal 3-point shot while developing an ability to make plays with the ball in his hand.
Beasley has started 14 of the last 19 games for Denver, and with the extended opportunity, he has flashed dominance in the face of some of the best players in the league. The most impressive game of Beasley’s season came against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. He scored a career-high 35 points on a fiery 70.6 percent shooting from the field while dropping five 3-pointers in the win. He stole the show, and with the help of Nikola Jokic, led the Nuggets to an impressive victory against a team that will be fighting with them for the opportunity to play for an NBA Championship in June.
While career nights like his one against Houston won’t be an every game occurrence for the once Florida State Seminole, his level of consistency since moving into the starting lineup has been pivotal in the Nuggets’ effort to hold one to one of the top spots in the west. In the 14 games in which Beasley was on the court for the opening tip-off, he has averaged 18 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the field and a whopping 50.5 percent from beyond the arc. Once you add in his 92.9 percent free throw percentage, Beasley has been shooting at a 50/40/90 rate in this new role. There is no way to downplay his efficiency as a starter, as it has clearly been elite.
Even when he isn’t starting, Beasley scores at a fantastic rate. On the season he is shooting over 50 percent from the floor and is connecting on 43.3 percent of his long-guns on nearly five attempts per game. Not only is he the best 3-point shooter on the Nuggets, but he is one of the best in the NBA.
He ranks seventh in the league heading into the second half of the season, behind the likes of Stephen Curry, Seth Curry, Buddy Hield, and Joe Harris, all of whom participated in the 3-point Shooting Contest at All-Star Weekend. He’s been a downright flamethrower from deep, a feat that is hard to understand after he shot 33.6 percent from behind the arc in the first two seasons of his career.
While the numbers did not project the shot to become as lethal as it is, Beasley’s stroke is quick and pure. He is best off of catch-and-shoot situations, like the majority of players in the league, and displays a feeling of comfort when being able to shoot quickly after receiving a pass, rather than having to put the ball on the floor.
The 6’5” wing also possesses a great deal of athleticism, which is most notable when he skies at the rim with ferocity. Just as Beasley had the merits needed to perform in the 3-Point Shooting Contest, he very well could have participated in the Dunk Contest as well.
Outside of his 3-point shooting and dunking capabilities, Beasley is still developing on offense. He has improved at getting to the rim while operating with the basketball and has even flashed the potential to be an adequate tertiary level distributor. He won’t ever be a primary distributor, but he makes the necessary passes and isn’t a ball stopper. He also boasts just a 5.9 percent turnover percentage, the lowest percentage of Denver’s four primary guards.
The Nuggets have tinkered around with their lineup intensely this season, whether it be due to injury or performance. Denver locked up their starting shooting guard of the future in Gary Harris before the 2017-2018 season began when they inked him to a four-year extension. So, that prohibits Beasley from starting at his primary position.
He is not a good enough ball-handler or facilitator to play significant minutes at the point guard spot, which is also occupied by Jamal Murray and Monte Morris. This leaves the small forward position. Perhaps Beasley’s best shot to start, which he believes he is worthy of, comes here. Will Barton, Torrey Craig, and Juancho Hernnagomez have all started games at small forward, but Beasley may be the best fit there. He has spent 37 percent of his minutes at the three spot, according to Basketball-Reference.
The triplet of Beasley, Harris, and Murray on the floor together owns a plus-1.0 rating in 17 games this season. However, once you add in Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic, the lineup’s rating soars. A lineup with those five on the floor has a plus-4.6 rating. If the Nuggets want him to, Beasley fits with their core, and can play a big part in not only their future, but their now.
Injuries to key players have forced the Nuggets to go deep into their reserves. Fortunately for them, they found a gem in Malik Beasley, who looks to be a key component to their roster as they continue to make their run in a heavily armed Western Conference.