Excluding Damian Lillard’s arrival, arguably the biggest storyline the Milwaukee Bucks faced heading into training camp and the preseason revolved around who would be the fifth starter.
With Grayson Allen dealt to Phoenix in the Lillard trade, the Bucks needed to find a new player to take the reigns at the starting two guard. Coach Adrian Griffin had a plethora of options, including Jae Crowder, Malik Beasley, MarJon Beauchamp, and Pat Connaughton seeming like the likeliest of the bunch. After a few preseason games, it seems like the answer is pretty clear.
Why Malik Beasley is likely the fifth starter
Even before he took the floor in the preseason, Malik Beasley was an eye-catching candidate to be the team’s fifth starter. He was electric last season, having made the most 3-point baskets off the bench among all reserves. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, and Brook Lopez, it’s easy to see the guard thriving on the perimeter due to all of the open looks.
However, there were questions about how Beasley would fit in defensively, given that he’s never been known for his play on that end. That made it surprising when Coach Griffin came out and said that Beasley would be tasked with taking on the hardest matchups nightly on that side of things. People looked at Griffin like he was insane.
If Beasley could indeed become a two-way threat, then the idea of him being the starter wouldn’t have been a question. Well, why he hasn’t been a lockdown defender in the preseason, the guard’s play on that side of things has been pretty solid, all things considered. On top of that, he’s lit it up on the offensive end whenever he’s touched the floor.
Across four preseason games thus far, Beasley is averaging 13 points while shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range on 8.3 attempts per contest. He’s been excellent on that side of things, and he hasn’t been playing alongside the typical starters in these matchups. Once he is, he will be getting even better looks on offense, which should fuel his success further.
Defensively, Beasley has seemingly bought into Griffin’s challenge and turned up his intensity on that side of the basketball. He hasn’t been an All-Defensive caliber guard or anything, but he has played with fire, pestering his opponents whenever he gets the chance. His hands have also been very active, as he’s averaging a steal per contest in the preseason.
Thus far, based on preseason play, Beasley has earned the job. MarJon Beauchamp hasn’t looked quite like the sophomore stud many hoped for, struggling to find consistency. Pat Connaughton’s play has been hot and cold as well, and he has always seemed like a reserve rather than a starter. Jae Crowder has actually looked solid in these first few games, but he’s not the typical two-guard.
Although there’s still one preseason game left, it would be quite a surprise if Beasley was not the starting two guard on opening night. Not only does he bring the offensive firepower that would fit in seamlessly with this lineup, but if he can at least play serviceable defense, there’s no denying the impact he could have alongside the rest of this group.
Entering the season on a one-year contract worth the minimum, Beasley has something to prove, and it’s looked like he’s had a huge chip on his shoulder throughout the preseason so far.
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