A mid-season trade had the shooting guard looking like a new player
A number of players changed homes during the NBA trade deadline last month. Before the league suspended the current season over COVID-19 concerns, some were flourishing for their new teams and then there are others who had truly taken their game to an entirely new level. Nobody personified that more than shooting guard Malik Beasley, who appears to have introduced himself as the game’s next star.
After one season at Florida State, Beasley declared for the draft and was chosen 16th overall in 2016 by the Denver Nuggets. Over the next four seasons, he developed into a solid bench option, averaging 7.4 points and knocking down 38.2% of his three-point shots over 206 games. Then in early February, he was involved in a massive four-team trade that landed him with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They say a change of scenery can do wonders for an athlete. Beasley has made that looked like gospel. Still just 23, he has stepped in as a starter with Minnesota and immediately become a veritable star. In 14 games with them, he is averaging 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He is also knocking down 47.2 of his field goal attempts, including 42.6% from deep. Not only have his rebound and assist percentages gone up with his new team but his turnover rates have gone down. Simply put, even in a small sample size, he is playing at a star level.
Although shooting very well and often (nearly nine attempts per game) from three has been an undeniable part of his success with the Timberwolves, there have been other noticeable changes to his game. A quarter of his shots in Minnesota are going inside the paint, which represents nearly doubling his rate with Denver. This is indicative of him not only crashing the glass more but also being more aggressive in driving to the basket. The inside-outside combination more often is almost always going to be a better combination for an athletic guard like him instead of relying on mid-range shots.
Beasley was always considered talented, but raw. During his rookie season in 2016–2017, he was assigned to a G-League team no less than six different occasions. Development is always a tricky thing in sports and can vary depending upon the player — in some occasions never truly playing out.
In a move appearing to be very prescient, Beasley bet on himself before the trade went down. According to reports, he turned down a three-year, $30 extension offered by Denver. That’s a very nice chunk of change, especially for a player who has never averaged more than 23.2 minutes per game in a season prior to this year. However, he clearly expected bigger things for himself, the cards were dealt, and he landed in a much better situation for his talent. If he continues playing even at a fraction of his current level, he will be fielding a number of much more lucrative offers than the one he passed on.
Young, 6’5” and with an offensive game perfectly suited for today’s NBA, Beasley has broken out just at the right time. Undoubtedly, Minnesota would love to lock him up and see what a longer partnership with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns might accomplish. However, the way their new acquisition is playing, he will be able to choose his own long-term situation as the NBA’s most newly minted star. Now, we just need to know when they will be able to play again.