Malik Beasley is still the great unknown for the Denver Nuggets. Most of the season he was either in Sioux Falls playing for the D-League's Skyforce or cheering lavishly from the bench for the Nuggets and did not see much playing time at the NBA level during his rookie year. Even after logging 32 and 40 minutes respectively over the final two games of the regular season, Beasley's skill-set and ceiling are mostly undiscovered.
Overall, Beasley played just 165 total minutes for the Nuggets this season and averaged just 3.8 points, 0.8 rebounds, and 0.5 assists over just 7.5 minutes per game. He did not get a great chance to prove himself until the final two games of the season when he put up a 16-points and five-rebound effort before following it up with another 17 points in the final game of the season.
What grade would you give Beasley's rookie season?
Harrison (@NBAWind): A
Joel (@NuggetsDenJoel): Encouraging.
Kalen (@PrincePickaxe): Incomplete.
Harrison: Beasley did everything asked of him this year and more. He didn't pout when asked to go to the D-League, where he spent a lot of this season and was an engaged member of the Nuggets' bench when he was in Denver. Beasley was a likable rookie and a hard worker in practice. When he was called upon for rare minutes, Beasley showed why the Nuggets took him at No. 19 last summer.
Joel: In his 497 D-League minutes (which actually tripled his 165 NBA minutes), he showed a great deal of versatility on offense, with a smooth 3-point shot, the ability to cut and drive effectively, and a variety of jumpers, which should fit in nicely on the Nuggets if he can execute on the NBA level. We just haven’t seen enough of him there yet to know, though.
Kalen: Beasley didn’t spend enough time in the NBA to really assess how he’ll handle guarding the best shooting guards in the world. He certainly looked good in the D-League and in garbage time, but both of those scenarios are far removed from guarding James Harden and DeMar DeRozan on a nightly basis.
T.J.: The way that Beasley finished off the season was enough for me. He not only averaged 16.5 points, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals in his last two games in 36 minutes per game but he was forced to line up across from Russell Westbrookin the final game of the season and performed admirably on both ends of the floor. Beasley showed a competitive fire and confidence that was not seen from the rookie throughout his first season in the Association.
What aspect of Beasley's game did he improve on the most this season?
Harrison: Confidence. Go back to the beginning of the season where Beasley saw sparse minutes and compare them with how he looked during the regular season's final two games and you'll see a different player. He's finished the season more sure of himself in every facet of his game. It was likely a culmination of his D-League success and his NBA service time approaching one year, but Beasley looked substantially more confident towards the end of his rookie campaign.
Joel:I’m not sure if this can be called an improvement, but I was impressed at how, in the rare instances when he had the opportunity to play, he did seem to instantly transform from the goofy, excitable bench cheerleader we’ve all grown to love, to a serious competitor with his game face on. He looked ready and fired up to play even in garbage time, and that’s realistically all that could have been expected of him.
Kalen:Again, hard to say. The fact he played so well in the D-League and kept getting called up says a lot about how he’s viewed by the Nuggets. Given his demeanor, bench-side celebrations and IQ it’s clear he’s already advanced for his age in terms of handling the mental aspect of being a professional athlete. All he really has to do is just continue to grow as a player.
T.J.: His competitiveness. Beasley was a fiery competitor at Florida State but his first couple games with the Denver Nuggets he looked three steps slow and overwhelmed. After multiple stints with the Sioux Falls Sky Force D-League team, Beasley came back to Denver with a renewed aggression and it showed in his on-court play. Beasley was relentless in his minutes the last two games of the season on both ends of the ball.
What does Beasley need to work on this upcoming offseason?
Harrison: Just get reps.Whether it's in Denver (preferably) or elsewhere, Beasley needs to be in the gym as much as possible this summer. Just as his time in the D-League did a lot for him developmentally last year, this summer could lead to a similar result. Beasley has an opportunity for more minutes next year and based on the work he put in last year, he'll be ready.
Joel:It’s hard to know since we saw so little of him, but developing good chemistry with his teammates - especially the bench players he’ll be sharing the court with most frequently - will be critical if he’s to have a smooth transition from bench warmer to rotation player. In terms of skills, the Nuggets desperately need better perimeter defenders, and if he can make a mark there, it may be his best path to earning a larger role.
Kalen:Shooting. He’s already a solid defender and will no doubt be right there with Gary Harris as one of the best defenders on the team by the end of next season. If he can become a reliable 3-point shooter the Nuggets are gonna have one hell of a two-guard combo on their hands for the foreseeable future.
T.J.: Catching up to the speed of the NBA-level of play and getting stronger. Both of these are things that most rookies need to work on and Beasley is not different. The game seemed much to sped up for him throughout the entire season. Until he adapts to the increased physicality and aggression of the professional level Beasley's overall production will be drastically limited.