It wasn’t a job interview. It was an interview that was just another part of his job.
But when Malik Beasley was told to meet with the media last Sunday afternoon, the newest Utah Jazz guard treated it with the utmost importance. He was there five minutes early. He dressed in a sleek white dress shirt and patterned purple tie. And overall, he had a message for those who would introduce him to his newest fanbase:
“As Jay-Z said, please allow me to reintroduce myself.”
So who was Malik Beasley? And who is he now?
Beasley didn’t really take basketball seriously early in his high school career, at St. Francis School in Alpharetta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta.
“I was just a scrawny little kid just looking to have some fun,” he once told Nuggets.com. “I didn’t start working hard until my junior year. My freshman and sophomore year I was still looking to play baseball and football. Then the dream changed.”
He had grown from 5-10 to 6-5. He realized he had a shot — and from that moment, he spent unmatched hours focusing on his new path.
“He just has an unbelievable work ethic. I’ve been coaching 30 years on different levels, I’m not sure I’ve ever been around a kid that works as hard as he does,” St. Francis coach Drew Catlett said. “From where he was a freshman, if you think about it, in six years he’s playing in the NBA, it’s kind of an incredible journey.”
Beasley was a coveted four-star prospect ranked No. 39 in his class — but he went on to exceed those expectations at Florida State as a freshman, rocketing up draft boards. Draft sites like NBADraft.net gushed about him: “Has textbook mechanics on his shot and is a knockdown shooter when open … Impressive and explosive athlete … Used his will and competitiveness to stand out above higher touted prospects,” are just some of the compliments thrown Beasley’s way.
In the end, it was health concerns about a stress fracture surgery he underwent on his leg before the pre-draft process that kept him as low as No. 19 to the Denver Nuggets.
Beasley, though, did need seasoning, spending much of his rookie season at the G-League level, and scoring just 3.2 points per game in the NBA in his second season. By his third year, though, Beasley established himself as an efficient contributor for the Nuggets, shooting 40% from three in 23 minutes per game.
A trade and trouble
The Nuggets, though, had Michael Porter Jr. coming up, and didn’t want to spend the outlay Beasley’s representatives wanted the next offseason in free agency. So they traded him to Minnesota in a four-team, 12-player trade, along with new fellow Jazz acquisition Jarred Vanderbilt.
With the trade, Beasley’s role expanded. He scored 20.7 points per game for the rest of his Timberwolves season, then averaged 19.6 points as a starter for the Wolves in 2020-21. The 3-point shot was still his biggest weapon, making 3.5 per game, but he cut and slashed effectively for 2-point baskets, too. A hamstring tear cut his season short, limiting him to just 37 games.
Also in the 2020-21 season: the incident that would send him to jail. His home in Plymouth, Minn., was incorrectly listed as being on a Parade of Homes tour — and Beasley didn’t react well. He confronted a group of people parked outside his property, tapped on their window, told them to get off his property, and pointed a rifle at them, according to reports. After the car reported what happened, police found Beasley, smelled marijuana, and obtained a warrant for his home, where they allegedly found narcotics and weapons, one of which they said was stolen.
In an arranged deal with prosecutors, Beasley pleaded guilty to one felony count of threats of violence, while the other charges were dropped. He served 78 days inside a Minnesota jail during the offseason, then was released.
Whether it was because of his tumultuous offseason or not, Beasley started the 2021-22 poorly, shooting just 37% from the field and 35% from deep, well off his career averages. His assist and rebounding numbers declined, too. But his play after the All-Star break was improved, especially from a shooting point of view: he made 45% of his 2-point and 3-point shots in his final 20 games of the season.
What might Beasley bring to the Jazz?
Beasley’s best asset from an NBA point of view is definitely his 3-point shot. Even with an overall down year, he still made 40% of his no-dribble threes last year, at very high volume. He’s been ever so slightly better from the corners than above-the-break during his career, but he’s really adept at both. He’s good at that one-dribble sidestep three to avoid closeouts, too, taking at least one per game.
And while Beasley said that the team’s coaching staff hadn’t yet told him what to expect, that was the biggest thing he figured he’d bring to the Jazz: “I see myself being a spacer for the team, especially for Donovan Mitchell,” Beasley said. He could use somebody who can shoot the ball really well and just get the ball out his hands and help him out a little bit.”
That being said, he’s not a J.J. Redick type who can come off of screens and score effectively. Both this season and last, the Timberwolves tried it, and found that Beasley’s shot became less accurate after all that movement.
Beasley ran more pick and rolls two seasons ago — last season, more of them went to Anthony Edwards and even Patrick Beverley for the Wolves. He was about average at it, but it’s something that the Jazz could use if Will Hardy wants to continue to have multiple ball-handlers run pick and roll, like Quin Snyder did. When he does shoot inside the arc, it’s more likely to be on the right side of the court.
For a 6-4 wing, Beasley’s actually a pretty decent rebounder, at least on the defensive end. With Rudy Gobert gone this season, rebounding will likely need to be a 5-man effort.
Defensively, Beasley makes little statistical impact on the game right now: even when you compare him just among players of his size, he gets fewer blocks or steals than nearly everyone else. He also gets fewer fouls than nearly anybody else — obviously, fouling is a bad thing, but sometimes they just are a consequence of defensive effort.
The individual play metrics are kinder than the scouting report on Beasley: for example, he allows just 0.78 points per possession on isolation plays, but there were times when opposing offenses felt comfortable attacking him last year. By his own account, he started last season quite slowly on the defensive end, before improving late in the year.
“It’s the care factor,” Beasley told the Star-Tribune. “Beginning of the season, I was just trying to get back in shape, get my rhythm, find a rhythm. But now I’m focused on winning the game, whether that’s rebounding, making shots or defending. In the playoffs, it’s iso-basketball. They always go for the mismatch and things like that. I don’t want to be that guy.”
Beasley’s even set the goal to make an All-Defense team in the future — he’s not close right now, but he believes it can be possible with more of that trademark worth ethic.
In doing so, Beasley is also developing a relationship with his new coach, Will Hardy. Hardy and Beasley had dinner in Las Vegas on Friday night, then Hardy competed against Beasley and his father on the golf course in the blazing Nevada heat on Saturday. (“He won the front nine, we won the back nine,” Beasley said.)
“He continues to harp on that he wants the Utah Jazz to have determination, to be one of those teams that’s gritty. And I think I fit in that role really well,” Beasley said.
Beyond getting to know his new environment, he also says he’s been more connected with his family since the incident. Beasley has also been connected with a therapist, who meets with him weekly or bi-weekly, who he says helps him to “continue to be strong on and off the court.”
It’s all part of his push to go back to the past — back to the person he thinks he was as an upperclassman in high school.
“I feel like my image has changed over time and I don’t want to be considered that,” Beasley said. “I want to be the guy that I learned Alpharetta, Georgia, and just continue to grow.”
“I was just tired of making the same mistakes that I’ve made before. And I don’t want to go through that anymore,” Beasley said. “You know, I believe in second chances. I believe everything happens for a reason. So I feel like I can do better in the world, in the basketball world and off court.”
“I want people to be able to learn from my mistakes and not go through what I went through,” he said. “You know, they deserve to live a great life — and so do I.”