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The idea is to imagine he’s posing for a Polaroi — errrrr an iPhone X.
This summer, Malik Beasley went to work with his trainer, Marc Campbell, on tweaking his shot. Reviewing last season’s film, Campbell noticed that Beasley had gotten in the habit of leaning backwards when he uncorked a jumper. The trainer and his pupil worked on making sure Beasley jumped straight up and down — not farther away from the orange cylinder he was aiming for.
‘When I shoot, don’t fade back,” Beasley said Friday. “Stay in my shot. Like I’m posing for a picture.”
The subtle change is paying off for Beasley in the early parts of the preseason. Through three games, Beasley has canned 11 of 16 looks from 3-point range. The 21-year-old shooting guard is averaging 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists on the Nuggets’ second unit, which has helped Denver go 3-0 despite its starters’ inconsistent play.
Beasley knocked down his first four 3-pointers Friday against Perth. He finished with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting, four rebounds and one turnover in 25 minutes. He was on the floor for much of the fourth quarter with Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee and Trey Lyles as Denver finally put away the Wildcats.
“He looks very confident,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That confidence is a byproduct of a lot of hard work in the gym. He was 7-of-10 from 3 going into tonight, and he shot it really well again. Hopefully, that consistency is there. That’s going to be the biggest challenge for Malik: can he shoot like this consistently? But I think just the way he’s playing right now, under control, not trying to do too much on offense, taking open shots, and then defensively really adhering to the game plan and having discipline, it’s great to see him playing at the level he’s playing at.”
Beasley estimates he made 20,000 shots this summer. He also rewatched all 62 games he appeared in last season.
At Summer League, Nuggets assistant coach Jordi Fernandez stressed that Beasley needed to play simple basketball. Shoot it when he’s open. Keep the ball moving if he’s not. Don’t lose focus defensively. The Nuggets, who are already overloaded with offensive firepower, don’t need Beasley to routinely pull of something spectacular when he’s on the floor; they just need him to make the right play consistently, a message Beasley is embracing.
“I know my role,” Beasley said. “Just come in and defend, (and) shoot it when I’m open. That’s what I’ve been doing. Coach wants me to play simple, so I’m just trying to play simple.”
Denver outscored Perth by 16 points when Beasley was on the floor. If he can continue to play clean basketball and knock down outside shots, the opportunity to carve out consistent rotation minutes is there. The Nuggets are thin on the wing after trading Wilson Chandler and elevating Will Barton into a starting role. Beasley is competing with Craig and Juancho Hernangomez for the backup minutes at shooting guard and small forward. He has the potential to be the best two-way player of that trio.
The challenge of working his way into an NBA rotation has been frustrating at times for Beasley, who averaged 15.6 points per game as a one-and-done player at Florida State. He only played in 22 games as a rookie. Last season, he averaged 9.4 minutes per game and racked up 11 DNP-CDs during the final 20 games of the regular season.
During difficult times, Beasley has leaned on Paul Millsap for advice. The two developed a relationship when Millsap was with the Atlanta Hawks and Beasley was a high school star at nearby St. Francis.
“I’ve had to tell him, ‘It’s coming,” Millsap said. “Just stay in it. A lot of times, these guys don’t understand the process of waiting until their time comes. He’s had an opportunity now to get out there and show what he can do. He’s putting in the work. He’s been patient. He’s been a great teammate. He’s always a positive guy in the locker room, dapping everybody up, shaking everybody’s hands before and after the game. His hard work and his dedication is paying off.”
Beasley has harbored NBA dreams since he was a teenager. Now that he’s made it to the league, the next step is figuring out his place in it. Watching mostly from the bench his first two seasons has forced him to develop patience. In year three, he’s hoping for more.
“I’m starting to realize my real time will come when I can be whatever I want,” Beasley said. “I can be an All-Star or whatever. It’s coming. I’ve just got to work my way up in the rotation just like every other player.”