Malik Beasley’s second season in the NBA provided a few more glimpses as to the type of player he aspires to be – and left him hungry to work this summer to put himself on the fast track to achieve those goals.
So, what will he work on? In a word: Everything.
“Get better,” Beasley said. “Strong. Work on my ball handling, work on my shooting. Work on everything… just trying to get better. Especially my body. I want to make sure I don’t get any injuries, and I want to stay strong in my core.”
The Nuggets reserve shooting guard’s appearances grew by 40 games from his first season (22) to his second (62). A five-game stretch in December – in the midst of the Nuggets’ second-longest road trip of the season – provided Beasley’s most dense period of playing time this season. There were six straight games where he reached double figures in time on the court. Five of those were at least 16 minutes or more. Two were over 23 minutes, including an inspired 28-minute game at Orlando, where Beasley scored 12 points with four rebounds and three assists in a Nuggets’ victory.
Defense, however, was the reason why Beasley hit the court.
“I’ve known that Malik Beasley not only has the physical talent to be a good defender,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone at that time. “But more importantly, Malik has the mental edge, the mental attitude and thought process to be a good defender.”
Beasley was the kind of player that Malone could put on the court to change the energy level on the defensive end. In his best moments, Beasley hounded ball-handlers, dove on the ground for loose basketballs, and could get out in the open court to finish with dunks at the rim if/when turnovers were created.
And midway through the season, the 21-year old Beasley had learned enough about life in the NBA, and about himself, that he made changes to his approach.
“I started figuring out after All Star break, just learning the season and learning how hard you’ve got to grind to be good every day and maintain your body every day,” Beasley said. “I just took a different approach to the game to really focus on basketball, not all of the other things. Watched more film, worked on my body more. I could see the results and I started to get better and better every day.”
Those are things he aims to build on during the summer. Because Beasley, who averaged 9.4 minutes per game, understands one central fact:
“I think I could have pushed a lot more,” he said. “I just know I’ve got to get better overall. Whether that’s offense, defense. I’ve got to get stronger, too.”
Beasley has an intriguing future. And he’s ready, more than ever, to make that future a current reality.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter