How can the Denver Nuggets’ Malik Beasley take the next step in development?

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

Malik Beasley’s motivation for his pivotal fourth year in the NBA was visually apparent from the moment he arrived at the Nuggets’ 2019 Media Day. Noticeably slimmer and more svelte, Beasley was the first Nugget to mention the team’s goal of winning a title this year and insisted he wanted to play a significant role in delivering it. 

“My main goal is to get better every day, that’s the only thing I can control,” Beasley said. “I’m just focused on winning the championship right here [in Denver].” 

In the preseason, Beasley has exceeded expectations as he’s leading the Nuggets in scoring (14.0 ppg) and is second in rebounding (5.5. rpg). Context is important, it is exhibition season and several players are still working to get back into rhythm. Yet, Beasley has shown new wrinkles to his game in the Nuggets’ opening two contests. 

The 22-year-old guard’s assassin-like play from the behind-the-arc and ferocious athleticism at the rim are well-known, but he’s shown more of a willingness to dribble and drive this season. In a recent interview with Altitude SR, he revealed he spent significant time working on his offhand, his left, to be able to dribble with both hands effectively. He confidently boasted he feels more comfortable now with his left than his right hand. 

Beasley averaged a career-high 2.5 rebounds last season but considering his size at the two-guard position (6-foot-5) and athleticism, there’s scope for him to greatly improve. Last season, Beasley had a 5.1 rebound percentage. This preseason, he’s grabbing boards at a 12.8 percent rate. If he can sustain a level close to that in the regular season, it would be a significant step for him. 

The biggest area where Beasley has stood out so far is defense and his development there could determine how good of player he will be. It is only two games, but Beasley has posted the best defensive rating in his career at 87.9. While individual defensive ratings aren’t always the best determinant of how good a defender is, it is still a massive uptick from last campaign, when he was at 107.3. It might be unreasonable to expect that level of proficiency over a full season, but any positive strides in that area could lead to more playing time.

“I watched a lot of film,” Beasley said Sunday. “Watching guys who are really good at defending like Avery Bradley, Tony Allen back in his prime, Andre Iguodala, things like that. Even (teammate guard) Gary Harris, seeing how they defend and then working on strength laterally.” 

Beasley has already shown he can be a great scorer at both the shooting and small forward positions, it’s the other end of the floor that will decide if he’s getting starter-level minutes. That can go a long way towards building on a breakout campaign last season. 

Eric Spyropoulos contributed reporting to this article

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