February 9, 2020, 3:32 am
The Nuggets reworked their bench at the trade deadline, with the departure of fan favorites Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez opening up jobs for the taking. The players that they received in the four-team deal involving the Rockets, Hawks and Wolves don’t really fit the profiles of the players that Denver traded away, but the team gave their second unit a nice scoring boost by acquiring Jordan McRae.
The Nuggets didn’t surrender much in the deal, sending the recently acquired Shabazz Napier to Washington. Napier was going to be a big luxury as the team’s third point guard, but Denver has enough depth in Jamal Murray and Monte Morris to pass on Napier’s contributions to fill a different need among its reserves.
One of the main reasons that the Nuggets parted with Beasley, whose play last season kept the team afloat despite a rash of injuries, is that they were unlikely to be able to retain him in restricted free agency this summer, even as his role and play have diminished this season. That doesn’t figure to be as big of an issue with McRae, who is five years older than Beasley with less of a track record of success.
As for this season, however, it’s McRae who has been the more productive player. After appearing in 81 games (18 starts) last season, Beasley has appeared in 41 of the Nuggets’ games up to the deadline, averaging five fewer minutes per game to boot. His totals have predictably suffered but it’s the efficiency that bounced him out of the rotation, as Beasley went from .402 3-point shooting last year to just .360 this season. Overall, he’s fallen from .474 to .389, and while that could just be a temporary slump, the Nuggets wanted some steadier insurance from a scoring perspective, as well as a player that would cost them less to retain.
McRae has dealt with a few injuries this year but has been a solid bench scorer when healthy, averaging career-highs with 12.8 points, 1.4 3-pointers and 22.6 minutes per game. He’s shooting .420 from the field and .377 from behind the arc, and his numbers may actually steady out and improve once he arrives in Denver. McRae is shooting 41.7% on his catch-and-shoot threes this season, though they only comprise 18.9% of his total shots.
Contrast that with Beasley, who is getting almost 40% of his shots as catch-and-shoot triples. Limiting the amount of pull-up shots McRae takes, as well as the amount of work he does as a ball-handler, could see the efficiency gap widen further.
The Nuggets boast a deep bench with players who can excel in highly specific roles. Go-to bench scorer and floor-spacer is one archetype that they were missing, and while McRae, like Beasley before him, might not play every single night, the Nuggets will roll the dice on his ability to get hot in a hurry. It’s the one clear area where McRae has more to offer than Beasley, and he’s a specialist that can help swing games down the stretch.
It isn’t a perfect comparison and losing a promising player like Beasley stings, but that’s life in a cap league. For now, the Nuggets have added a player that brings a different dynamic to the table, as well as one that they have a better shot at keeping moving forward. It’s the sort of sacrifice that teams with title hopes tend to make.