Entering the 2016-17 season, the Denver Nuggets are in an envious position; the roster is loaded with depth at the shooting guard position. In his sophomore season, Gary Harris showed promise as the season progressed, making him a man to watch in 2016-17. Mike Miller remains a mentor coming off of the bench during the twilight of his career. Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley enter the fray as eager, athletic, and able bodied rookies looking to contribute immediately. The versatile Will Barton rounds out the bunch, splitting time between small forward and shooting guard as needed. Talent aside, this is a young core rotation, with an expected learning curve. Will talent equal success in the back court during the 2016-17 season?
Analyzing the Denver Nuggets Shooting Guards
Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number
The Nuggets enter the 2016-17 season featuring an expected rotation of Harris (22), Murray (19), and Beasley (19). Though Miller and Barton will contribute, the core of the Nuggets rotation at shooting guard average a mere 20 years old. With youth comes immaturity, and there figures to be plenty of learning opportunities as the season progresses. Maturity issues aside, this is a very talented core, with each player bringing a unique skill set to the table. The steepest challenge for the Nuggets coaching staff is to find out what players fit best on each unit.
The Nuggets were thrilled with the growth that Harris displayed in his sophomore season. Boasting a season average of 12.3 points per game on 46.9% shooting, he became more efficient offensively as the season progressed. Though Harris carries only a 35.4% 3 point field goal percentage, he showed an ability when he can set and shoot. A naturally aggressive player, Harris is exciting in the open court, and explosive attacking the rim. Harris has also shown an ability to exploit open space on offense, moving effectively without the ball. Entering year 3, Denver would like to see Harris improve on his 1.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.
When Denver landed Murray with the 7th pick in the NBA Draft, they got their man without having to trade assets. Now, the youngster must produce. After averaging 20.0 points per game on 45.4% shooting in college, Murray knows what to do with the ball in his hands. Carrying a 40.8% 3 point percentage brings an outside dynamic that Denver’s offense has been lacking. Scoring prowess aside, Murray is the most complete player in Denver’s back court entering his rookie campaign. Murray can play point or shooting guard, while rebounding like a forward. Denver will benefit tremendously from Murray’s 5.2 rebounds per game, limiting opponent 2nd chance opportunities. Murray might spend time this season spelling Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard, so Denver will look to improve his 2.2 assist per game average.
When Denver was on the board with their 3rd and final selection in the first round of the NBA Draft, they took the “best player available” approach. Malik Beasley certainly is an interesting prospect at shooting guard, with an incredibly efficient playing style. Boasting a 15.6 point per game average, Beasley shot an effective 47.1% from the field. Beasley is effective from beyond the arc, shooting 38.7% from 3 point range. Outside range aside, Beasley is most effective attacking the rim. Early, and often. Blessed with size and range, Beasley is also adept at attacking the board, posting 5.3 rebounds per game at the collegiate level. Beasley will be a welcome addition to Denver’s back court rotation once he is fully recovered from a foot injury.
Denver’s depth at the shooting guard position make this an exciting group to follow. Expect Harris to begin the season as the starter, but don’t be surprised if Murray takes over as the season progresses. Additionally, if Beasley shows consistency early, it could make one of these players expendable via trade at the deadline. With Murray and Beasley boasting the more complete game, and Barton splitting time at shooting guard, Harris might find himself on the outside looking in moving forward. No matter which approach Nuggets brass takes, the shooting guard position makes this roster better than this time last season.