Over the next few weeks, the Denver Stiffs staff will be previewing the 2016-17 Denver Nuggets. The team enters Michael Malone’s second season with the Nuggets with a mix of new and familiar faces. With a roster mixed with young talent like Jamal Murray and more experienced veterans like Wilson Chandler, the Nuggets are looking to improve on their 33-49 record from last season.
Malik Beasley is the consensus 13th-ranked player for the Nuggets per the Denver Stiffs writers. Of course, Nikola Jokic might have been thought of in much the same fashion before last season. With rookies this scale is eminently flexible. Beasley is an athletic, aggressive shooting guard with a pure shot who also happens to be a willing (if not yet polished) defender. Being a raw rookie, he’ll have trouble getting minutes to start the season, but the Nuggets’ front office has said they’re willing to wait for him to adjust to the pro game.
As an amalgam of some of the best traits of both Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, Beasley is the pure dark horse for the back court this season - and has a chance to be special. He should be expected to get very few minutes in the first half of the season as the Nuggets bring him along slowly, but may be ready to step up in the new year if injuries or a trade opens some playing time. The tools are there for him to eventually be a starter in the NBA at shooting guard, or a 6th-man candidate as a bench weapon - but even if he capitalizes on those tools, that won’t happen for a couple of years. The key word for Beasley is patience.
Beasley’s shot is pure. He shot better than Gary Harris in college, and did it as a freshman in the ACC which isn’t the most forgiving league around. He’s great in transition and can finish above the rim with ease, unlike our other shooting guards. He’s a good free throw shooter and has true three-point range but is also money on his drives to the basket, making him one of the most efficient scorers in the draft. His true shooting percentage was higher than Brandon Ingram’s in the same league, and Beasley did it with a stress fracture in his leg.
Beasley is active on defense and very good on the glass, and is quick enough to cover and switch on the perimeter. He may be able to stay in front of point guards in ways that Mudiay has been unable to and Murray is unlikely to, providing extra value. He’s been described as a terrific teammate, and his motor on the court and work ethic off it are also huge plusses. The story of him texting his workout coach during the draft - when he was still in the green room - to find out when they could get back in the gym says all you need to know about his willingness to put in the work.
The stress fracture in his shin is naturally a concern, but he’s back dunking on the court at this point. He was unheralded coming out of high school, which in concert with the stress fracture caused more of a drop in a flat draft and could provide doubts about his ability to translate his singular college year to the pros. He doesn’t have great size as a shooting guard and can’t switch to the 3 realistically, not even like Will Barton does as a swingman with the same sort of 3-and-slasher profile.
That puts him behind Harris and probably Jamal Murray in getting minutes, as well as fighting for time with the aforementioned Barton - and as Harris himself found out, it’s hard to grow your game if you can’t play. He’s not a great iso player and isn’t much of an assist man, though he’s willing to pass if he needs to. Beasley also isn’t a polished defender and needs to expand his experience in that area to take better advantage of quick feet and hands.
Projected 2016-17 Season Stats
Beasley has no projected stats from Hashtag Basketball, likely due to the sudden glut of shooting guards on Denver’s roster and his uncertain injury status limiting his expected minutes.