Denver Nuggets third-year wing Malik Beasley made the most of his ninth professional start on Friday, scoring a career-high 35 points.
Beasley played less than 10 minutes per game in his first two NBA campaigns. Even this season, as he averages 11.2 points per game, he seems to be flying under the radar. But the former Florida State star is someone who easily passes the eye test — it’s clear he can ball — and a deeper dive into his game shows he is beyond valuable to his team.
The Nuggets have been lauded for their depth – as they have seven players averaging double figures, including Beasley – which has helped Denver remain at the top of the Western Conference standings. They are currently tied with the Golden State Warriors for the No. 1 seed, despite dealing with injuries to several core players.
Beasley has played all 51 games and the Nuggets have outscored opponents by 6.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. His confidence is beginning to shine, too, and he told reporters that his game against the Houston Rockets was a good indication of who he is (via ESPN):
“I definitely think this is a statement performance to show the world who I am. I’m not just out there on the bench. I’m not just on this team with a lot of great players. I am a player.”
Beasley is currently averaging 1.19 points per possession on offense this season. That ranks in the 98th percentile among all players in the NBA, per Synergy Sports. Among those who have finished at least 400 possessions, he ranks behind just Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.
He has finished around one-third of his offensive possessions as a spot-up shooter, which is a role he has thrived in for Denver. There are 107 players who have spotted up on at least 120 possessions and only four of them (Davis Bertans, Buddy Hield, Paul George and Marcus Morris) have been more efficient than Beasley.
For example, he is shooting an unheralded 58-for-122 (47.5 percent) from three-point range after passes from either Jamal Murray, Monte Morris or Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets have outscored opponents by 12.9 points per 100 when Beasley has appeared alongside Jokic, per NBAWowy.
He has also been dominant shooting off screens and coming off pick-and-rolls as the ballhandler for his team. Denver has the players around him to help him thrive and his development may soon be noticed around the league.
Overall, few have looked more impressive on jump shots than the Denver wing. He is averaging 1.22 PPP on jumpers this season, which ranks behind just Curry and Brooklyn’s Joe Harris for best in the league.
Nick Kosmider profiled Beasley before the season and noted the ways the wing had improved his form (via The Athletic):
“As Beasley began consuming more film of his own game — he watched every shot he took last season — he noticed a tendency to lean backward as he released his jumper. That discovery has led to better balance, with Beasley exploding to his apex on a more vertical path.”
The former first-round pick is able to create jump shots off the dribble as well, which will allow him to transcend as a shot creator if given more opportunities. Beasley has scored 1.17 PPP when he has taken these looks. This trails only Curry (once again) and Atlanta rookie Kevin Huerter for the most efficient mark in the NBA.
But his jumper is far from the only skill set that has made him such a threat on offense. While that has been the main source of his scoring, he has shown he is a multi-dimensional player.
Beasley is also a force to be reckoned with in transition, currently averaging 1.28 PPP in this type of offense. Just look at the thunderous dunk he had last night to show how lethal he can on the break or in the open floor.
Later, he had yet another transition slam to close the game that tossed opposing defender Austin Rivers to the floor. That was the physical encapsulation of the “statement games” he told reporters.
For those who have followed closely, it is hardly a shock. Beasley has put up 20.0 points per 36 minutes in the 20 games he has played in for Denver since Christmas.
Now that Jamal Murray is hurt, expect Beasley’s role to spike – as the Nuggets need him to shine. His usage rate with Murray on the floor (15.6 percent) has been low. But in the time he has played without Murray, he has been tasked with a much bigger usage rate (22.7 percent) and workload.
As he will continue to get more attention, now might be a good time to check if he is available in fantasy basketball leagues. Regardless, it would be smart to pay attention to his game — Beasley is a true joy to watch whether he is cutting to the basket or setting his feet beyond the line for a three.