Denver Nuggets’ Monte Morris and Malik Beasley hope improved conditioning raise their games
The unexpected success of the Denver Nuggets’ reserve backcourt in Monte Morris and Malik Beasley was a big reason why the team saw its win total increase by eight in the 2018-19 season.
Morris and Beasley averaged under four points in the previous campaign but both guards took advantage of consistent playing time to showcase their improvement. In order for the Nuggets to build on this past season, both will need to continue their development. Morris and Beasley both believe increased focus on offseason conditioning could be important in elevating their games.
“[I] want to gain a lot of pounds, for my core to be stronger and my legs to be stronger too,” Beasley said on Monday before lowering his voice and adding with a grin. “So, I can have more dunks next year. “
Morris added, “People don't know this but I'm really stiff. My body is stiff. Flexibility is going to be big for me this summer, working on my hip power, getting a lot faster, my mobility. “
Morris and Beasley had shown flashes of their potential in previous seasons, but the Nuggets certainly took a leap of faith on both, trading away some veterans to open up minutes for the reserve pair. Beasley entered his third season expecting to be the backup to Gary Harris and Will Barton. Beasley thrived in the role, averaging 11.3 points while shooting 40.2 from downtown in 23.2 minutes per game. The previous season, the shooting guard averaged 3.2 points in 9.6 minutes per game.
“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I felt like I did a good job of [improving] especially from last year and the year before that,” Beasley said. “Knowing where I came from, playing 10 minutes a game to sometimes playing 20 minutes a game. It was a huge jump, but I loved it and I’m grateful for the opportunity to show the world what I can do.”
Morris’ success was more of a pleasant surprise. The 23-year-old was originally the Nuggets’ third-string point guard as the team signed Isaiah Thomas to back up Jamal Murray. With Thomas rehabbing from a long-term hip injury, Morris showcased why he could be an important part of the Nuggets rotation.
“This year everything was happening so fast. I had the opportunity to backup Jamal while Isaiah was out and I took advantage of it,” Morris said before later adding. “Overall, I was proud of myself and how I took on challenges playing against some all-time greats in this league. I feel like I played Monte basketball for the most part and had a lot of fun."
During the regular season, Morris’ steady hand on the ball made him one of the league’s top reserves. He was second in the NBA in assist to turnover ratio (5.71) and averaged 10.4 points and 3.6 assists on 49.3 shooting. That’s a big jump from the year prior, where he played in three NBA games and spent most of his rookie season with the G-League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
In the playoffs, Morris struggled to match the same production, averaging 5.4 points and 2.6 assists while converting 38.4 percent of his field goal attempts. In his final media availability, Morris admitted the length of the season caught up to him. In his first season, Morris played in a combined 40 games between the G League and the NBA.
“Personally, I know I struggled in the playoffs but overall, with this being my first time going through this long season, for me to hit my walls when I did and get back from it, I didn't get too down on myself.” Morris said. “I know I can play at this level. But it was tough this late in the season with the wear and tear on the body. “
With valuable playoff experience under their belt, Morris and Beasley are excited to see how improving their fitness can help them reach their potential.
“On court I'll still be the same, grinding like I did last summer,” Morris said. “But I'm going to focus more on my body more when it comes to movement, so I can be more durable down the stretch of the season."
“[I want to] put in more work than I did last season,” Beasley said. “I don’t want people to know that I just did that for this year. I want to continue to be better and better every single year. “