LAS VEGAS – In the opening moments of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Summer League game against Phoenix at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday, MarJon Beauchamp’s drive to the basket was stopped one step short of the free throw line. He pivoted, pump faked and tipped the ball off the backboard to himself for a dunk. The night before against Denver, Beauchamp used a crossover from the three-point line for a left-handed drive to the basket that sent him to the free throw line. Later in the game against the Denver Nuggets, a right-handed drive led to a spin move and a layup.
In the first two games, Beauchamp scored 23 and 20 points against the Nuggets and Phoenix Suns, respectively, on 58% shooting from the floor. He also shot 13 free throws.
It did not go unnoticed.
“What I like about Summer League is him getting to the rim, just imposing his will,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said. “I think he’s got great size, great physicality and he’s gotten to the rim, and when you get to the rim, good things happen.”
As individual plays and games go, Beauchamp’s Summer League performance has been strong — which was to be expected given the fact that he’s a second-year pro playing rookies and other players looking to get a foothold in the NBA or G League .
But Bucks general manager Jon Horst cautioned against using such a word.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an expectation because they have to work,” he said. “They have to use the time. It’s definitely a hope when you draft someone, and it’s a belief. We drafted MarJon because we had a lot of faith in the person that he is, the work ethic that he had, and the fundamental skills that he had, and I thought that last year, he made big strides in his first year as rookie. He played meaningful minutes at meaningful times in the regular season, and he played well.
“He has not rested on that. He has had a fantastic offseason. He has worked on his body, he has worked on his game.”
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After a rookie season in which he appeared in 52 games (11 starts) and shot 39.5% from the floor overall and 33.1% from behind the three-point line, Beauchamp checked into Summer League five pounds heavier than he did as a rookie (202 vs . 197). But it’s more than “just” five pounds. He looks stronger.
And perhaps more importantly, confident.
“His confidence and feeling good out there and kind of understanding what he does best and how he can do it and execute it and just kind of put his impact on the game, on both ends of the floor, getting to the rim , making plays defensively,” sophomore AJ Green said of the difference in his teammate from a year ago.
“He’s just so much more like ‘I’m here.’ I belong here, comfortably out there.”
It’s the kind of intangibles that translate into such tangible highlights on the court – and was a focused effort of improvement over the last calendar year for the 22-year-old Beauchamp.
“Really just my mentality, the way I approach the game,” he said of how he’s improved. “I feel like just staying calm. That’s what I’ve been working on and not being so hard on myself. Really, I’m fine. I’ve been at peace with myself. I’ve just been working on the mental part of the game because I’m very hard on myself because I’m just trying to be the greatest that I can be. I feel like I’ve grown.”
Which may be easy to say when things are going well, but this was on display after a four-turnover game against Brooklyn on July 11th in which he missed every shot and went scoreless.
He nodded in agreement.
“I would say it’s another learning process and keep your head up,” he began. “We all have days like this, you know? You just have to adapt to the next game and keep going hard and keep believing that you know it? I think I’m more calm now than last year.”
“I think I would have been a little frustrated, but I’m not really frustrated. I’m moving on to the next thing.”
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What that means going into Beauchamp’s second season in the NBA has yet to be seen, but it has Horst feeling encouraged.
“Whatever he does the rest of the summer league, he’s out of here and he’s going to work again,” Horst said. “Then his next opportunity will be to show every training camp. And then it will be the preseason and then the regular season. What that means in terms of rotation or playing time, I have no idea. I just want to see the right path and he is definitely on the right path, the right path, and he’s approaching it the absolute right way. I think he looks great. I really do. I think he’s had a really good summer.”
For his part, Beauchamp believes he is not only on the right path, but ready to leap forward down it.
“Going into camp, I just want to show my skills, where I’ve grown and I’m reading the game better,” he said. “I’m here to take that leap. I am. It starts on Day 1 of training camp, so I can’t wait.”