At No. 19 overall in last month's NBA draft, the Denver Nuggets found themselves on the clock with a number of familiar names still available.
France's Timothe Luwawu, who the Nuggets had brought in for a pre-draft workout was still ou there. As was Turkey's Furkan Korkmaz, another international prospect who had visited Denver leading up to the draft. Michigan State's Deyonta Davis, and Kentucky's Skal Labissiere, two projected lottery picks, were still sitting in the green room as well, waiting to hear their names called.
The Nuggets instead, opted to select a prospect they felt they knew, someone they were familiar with, and someone they trusted in the locker room and on the court.
Malik Beasley, who Denver graded out as a lottery level talent prior to a stress fracture in his right leg which he had surgery on after his college season, turned out to be the Nuggets selection at No. 19. The familiarity the Nuggets had with Beasley and intel they'd done on him helped sway Denver towards the 6-foot-5 guard.
"We thought Malik just had too much talent to pass up,"general manager Tim Connelly said. "We're pretty close with the Florida State program. He's a guy that we've interviewed several times, we felt comfortable with him. He's an elite athlete a shot-maker. Again, a live in the gym guy."
Connelly's younger brother, Dan Connelly, was a manager with the Florida State basketball program for four years where he forged a relationship with head coach Leonard Hamilton. That relationship and trust gave the Nuggets that much-coveted intel that they used to ultimately select the 19-year-old. Those relationships help a great deal, but a large part of why Beasley is with the Nuggets now is because of his skill-set and ability on the court.
Beasley averaged 15.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game last season for Florida State; impressive numbers for a freshman that wasn't a McDonalds All-American or Nike Hoop Summit. He shot an efficient 47.1 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from 3-point range and was over 80 percent from the line, helping his case to project as a plus shooter at the NBA level.
Beasley's shot is compact, repeatable and is straight up and down, although he does start from a fairly wide base. He also gets great elevation when shooting, not surprising considering how athletic he is.
He's absolutely lethal in catch-and-shoot situations where he averaged an impressive 1.175 points per possession last season at Florida State.
Beasley's quick release allows him to get his jumper off quickly, especially useful at the next level where he'll be guarded by longer defenders.
Beasley is also a high IQ player on the offensive end of the floor. Here he gives up the ball, then relocates to the corner where he finds himself an open look. Basketball IQ is such a vital skill in today's game as offenses are evolving and defenses are smarter and more prepared than ever.
The most successful NBA offenses, of course, rely on highly skilled scorers, but also smart, intelligent players who know when to cut, when to move, and how to read the defense and then react. Beasley, at least on offense, fits that mold.
Beasley's catch-and-shoot ability drips down to his knack of getting quality looks off the dribble. While he doesn't get a ton of space when using one or two dribbles, he creates just enough and relies on his fundamentals to knock down tough jumpers. His quick, high release and expert footwork help Beasley get his shoulders squared quickly, allowing him to rise up on balance and convert.
His offensive repertoire doesn't stop there. So far we've covered Beasley's cath-and-shoot potency and his ability to pull up effectively off-the-dribble, but Beasley's full acumen on that end of the floor is complete with his efficient floater. Beasley shot 8-14 on floaters, per DraftExpress, which is a small sample size, but if you watched Beasley closely last year, you notice his touch around the rim and his awareness of when to use his floater.
The last part of aspect of Beasley's offensive game worth mentioning is his ability in transition. He's a plus athlete at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, with a decent wingspan and can jump out of the gym. Florida State was 30th in pace last season according to KenPom, and Beasley's athleticism was a big reason why. I'd assume Denver will get out in transition more than they did last season - partly because they'll be a year older, and also because I think coach Micahel Malone will trust his group more. By grabbing Beasley and Jamal Murray, two solid NBA athletes, the Nuggets should open up their offense on the break.
Beasley's athleticism also helps him out in the halfcourt. He possesses a clean and smooth first step and can finish at the rim.
Beasley projects as an off-ball, future starter in my mind. He has the skill-set at just 19-years-old but still has things to work on.
Those areas where he'll need to improve start on defense. He's athletic enough to be a solid two-way player but gambled and lost focus at times last season. Connelly described Beasley as "a guy that will grow into being an excellent defender. Playing for coach Malone, that's an emphasis," and I agree that he'll grow into that role.
Here, he misses a steal that he probably should have gotten and gives up a three. These mistakes can be correctable and because the Nuggets rarely gambled on defense in their first year under Malone, I think this issue probably goes away over the next couple of years.
While Beasley is an efficient shooter his ballhandling still needs work. He's got a high dribble, similar to Mudiay last season and could be more effective off the dribble and in ISO situations if he tightened up his handle.
Both those weaknesses are fixable and can get better with better coaching and development which he'll get in Denver. Beasley had surgery for a stress fracture in his right leg in May or June and wasn't able to workout for teams, but has been participating in some aspects of the Nuggets' ongoing Summer League minicamp.
He won't be playing in Las Vegas, as Denver simply wants to be cautious with him, but should be ready for training camp this fall. Beasley might not even suit up often during the regular season either, but then again at this time last year, we thought Nikola Jokic would rarely get minutes as well.
"Usually, in the morning, I get here two hours before, do rehab, lift weights, work out and then I'll watch practice and get some shots after practice, free throws," Beasley said of his current regimen. "I'm dunking now, I just started dunking again, off-the-dribble stuff, getting into it. No limited restrictions so just taking it easy, just going through the program."
He's trying to make the most of the process. Watching from afar can be a benefit to him as it was for Mudiay last season when he says the game slowed down for him once he got back from an ankle injury in mid-December.
I'm taking advantage of it," Beasley said of the time he spends rehabbing his leg. "Even though I can't be out there, before the game I'll probably work out then get back at it after the games. In between, just learn from everybody and get to know our players better."