Thursday, September 5, 2013

The future of Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley, the former #2 overall pick in the 2008 draft was waived by the Phoenix Suns earlier in the week.  Beasley has quickly bounced around the league since being drafted, and will be looking to play on his fourth team in six seasons.  There are many teams who will pass on him due to character and attitude issues, and others who will pass because his playstyle is not conducive to winning basketball.  I think there is evidence he can contribute at contribute at a respectable level and revive his NBA career.

2009 20 MIA PF 81 2009 17.2 .528 6.5 19.8 7.7 1.1 1.5 10.2 27.7
2010 21 MIA PF 78 2328 16.1 .505 6.3 18.8 7.8 1.8 1.7 10.3 25.8
2011 22 MIN SF 73 2361 15.5 .510 5.4 14.1 12.3 1.1 1.7 12.4 28.3
2012 23 MIN SF 47 1087 13.0 .502 4.0 17.2 7.7 0.9 1.2 12.9 25.3
2013 24 PHO SF 75 1554 10.8 .462 3.7 17.2 12.5 1.0 1.6 14.9 27.6
Career 354 9339 15.0 .504 5.4 17.4 9.7 1.3 1.6 12.0 27.1

Using PER as a baseline, Beasley's production has gotten worse with each passing season. While some of this can be tied to his effort, I think you can also tie some of it to his position and role.

Beasley started his career as a PF with the Miami Heat.  He was a fantastic rebounder in college, and that is one attribute that usually translates from the NCAA to NBA level.  It didn't for Beasley, which is certainly an indictment of his effort, but his marks are still passable for an NBA power forward.

When Beasley moved to SF with the Timberwolves (and later the Suns) you can see his game began to decline.  Playing on the perimeter lead to fewer offensive rebounds and more jump shots.  While Beasley has solid perimeter skills for a PF and could use that to take advantage of slower PFs, he simply isn't good enough as a shot creating small forward to make a difference at that position.

As written on Bright Side of the Sun...
Beasley is simply not an isolation scorer. He's just not. He's not fast enough nor does he handle the ball well enough to beat people off the dribble, and he doesn't draw contact. Beasley isolated six times in this game, shooting 1-4 with two turnovers. In every other play type, he was 9-10 with three turnovers (one of which was the bogus offensive foul call). Please, please, please stop isolating Michael Beasley. Doing so is setting him up to fail (a large part of this is on Beasley himself an his decision-making, but the coaching staff deserves some blame as well).
It's absolutely worth noting that Beasley's best seasons also came on a playoff team where he was able to play off of another shot creating superstar, Dwyane Wade (he was also coached by that Erik Spoelstra guy who is using Chris Bosh at center, Shane Battier at power forward, and LeBron James wherever he damn pleases).

Heat: 90-74 (.548)
Wolves: 43-105 (.290)
Suns: 25-57 (.304)

The Timberwolves and Suns both had far more problems going for them than Michael Beasley's production.  Neither team had the locker room presence and culture that would keep Beasley motivated. While a true professional should be self-motivated, the NBA has seen plenty of players who lacked "drive".  It's trickier to manage these personalities, but certainly doable, and many of them were able to carve out long careers.  There is more Derrick Coleman within Beasley than there is Darko Milicic, more Drew Gooden than Eddy Curry.  He can put his NBA career back together, but as with so many other pros, it all depends on role, team, and culture.

Which teams could offer a mutually beneficial relationship?  I've got eight potential suitors on my list.


SF: Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll
PF: Paul Millsap, Gustavo Ayon, Mike Scott

Atlanta does not seem like an obvious fit, until one considers that Kyle Korver might need to play heavy minutes at shooting guard, where the Hawks only have John Jenkins, Jared Cunningham, and recovering/undersized Lou Williams.  Beasley offers a nice contrast from DeMarre Carroll, who can't create his own shot, and an upgrade from Mike Scott as the team's de facto stretch four.

The Hawks are also coming off the Josh Smith era, who saw a ton of success despite a tweener profile and poor attitude.  While Beasley does not possess anywhere close to the defensive acumen of Smoove, he is a much better shooter.  The Hawks can also be penciled in as a low-seed playoff team, which would raise Beasley's focus.


SF: Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jae Crowder
PF: Dirk Nowitzki

What better fit for Beasley than a Dallas team that has featured the greatest stretch four of all-time (apologies to Larry Bird) for the last decade?  The Mavericks have been using Shawn Marion as Dirk's backup the past three seasons, which left them thin up front when Dirk was injured last season.  A 15-20 minute role on a possible contender may be the perfect opportunity for Beasley (and ultimately may be the ceiling for his skill set). Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn't afraid to gamble, and while he lost on Lamar Odom, I suppose the silver lining is that Beasley's drug of choice isn't crack cocaine.


SF: Chandler Parsons, Omri Casspi, Reggie Williams
PF: Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas

The Rockets have a very crowded roster, but every single player in their front court is a question mark beyond Chandler Parsons.

Michael Beasley 9339 15.0 .504 5.4 17.4 9.7 1.3 1.6 12.0 27.1
Omri Casspi 5477 12.2 .515 4.7 16.4 7.7 1.6 0.9 11.3 18.0
Terrence Jones 276 17.1 .512 11.6 15.0 8.6 2.2 5.2 11.4 18.1
Donatas Motiejunas 538 12.2 .531 7.7 11.9 9.5 0.6 1.4 13.6 22.1
Chandler Parsons 4562 14.5 .558 4.3 13.4 14.1 1.7 1.0 12.5 17.7
Reggie Williams 3535 14.4 .562 3.1 12.2 13.1 1.2 0.3 9.2 18.7

If Beasley had 10% chopped off his USG% I consider it likely he would have the TS% efficiency of Parsons or Williams (he certainly wouldn't be Casspi bad).  The Rockets uptempo style would be a great fit for him, and they absolutely need a stretch four next to Dwight Howard.  Howard saw success playing next to Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, and a Beasley/Parsons pairing would be very similar to that.


SF: Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams
PF: Pau Gasol, Elias Harris, Ryan Kelly

The Lakers are frequently mentioned as a potential landing spot for Beasley because of how lacking they are in talent up front beyond Pau Gasol.

Michael Beasley 9339 15.0 .504 5.4 17.4 9.7 1.3 1.6 12.0 27.1
Wesley Johnson 4491 9.5 .485 2.3 11.2 8.4 1.3 2.0 11.6 17.0
Shawne Williams 3530 10.7 .508 5.9 13.8 6.5 1.2 2.2 10.8 17.0

(Mildly amusing that Beasley and Wesley Johnson have been following each other around of late; they played together in Minnesota and Phoenix the prior two seasons).

LA has yet to truly replace last season's stretch four, Antawn Jamison (who was forced into SF minutes about ten years too late), and reports of Lamar Odom's drug use appear to make an LA return unlikely. 

Mike D'Antoni's offense would be a great fit for Beasley, as D'Antoni was able to maximize Al Harrington's talents while with the New York Knicks.  The presence of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in the locker room should also help Beasley, whose off-court distractions and attitude pale in comparison to what the Lakers just went through with Dwight Howard.


SF: LeBron James, Shane Battier, James Jones
PF: Udonis Haslem, Rashard Lewis, Jarvis Varnado

Miami is a team that obviously has no qualms about stacking it's roster with talent, and they are the only franchise where Beasley had any success.  Beasley would obviously not be heavily relied upon to score with the big three around, but that diminished responsibility is exactly what he needs.

The Heat have not replaced amnesty casualty Mike Miller, so there are 10-15 rotation minutes available on a team that won't be looking to increase the workload of their veterans.  Beasley would actually be Miami's youngest player!

Under 30: Norris Cole (25), Greg Oden (25), Jarvis Varnado (25), Mario Chalmers (27), LeBron James (29), Chris Bosh (29)

Over 30: Joel Anthony (31), Udonis Haslem (33), James Jones (33), Rashard Lewis (34), Shane Battier (35), Chris Andersen (35), Ray Allen (38)

Miami is particularly old in the front-court, and adding a young player like Beasley to the mix would serve to keep Battier and Haslem healthy for the playoff run.  Haslem in particular has declined each of the last three years, and it would not be entirely surprising to see Beasley take his rotation spot either.

Tack on Miami's championship culture, the fact that Beasley started his career in Miami, his familiarity with Dwyane Wade, and that Erik Spoelstra is the only coach to get anything out of him, and Miami might be the only team in the league that would be perfectly comfortable with bringing Beasley in.


SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Darius Miller
PF: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Lance Thomas

Beasley would absolutely be a talent upgrade over the Pelicans wings, both of whom lack offensive ability. With Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans, New Orleans certainly isn't lacking for shot creators, which would allow Beasley to play a more complimentary role.  Anthony Davis will be called upon to play more center this season (his natural position once his body is able to withstand the punishment), and Ryan Anderson has already seen success with the team as a stretch four.

If I were the Pelicans I would be content to sit this one out, however, as it's in the team's best interest to see if there is anything worthwhile in Austin Rivers, who had an even worse season than Beasley did by just about every conceivable measure.

Michael Beasley 1554 10.8 .462 3.7 17.2 12.5 1.0 1.6 14.9 27.6
Austin Rivers 1418 5.9 .431 1.3 8.0 13.9 1.0 0.5 14.5 16.8


SF: Evan Turner, James Anderson
PF: Thaddeus Young, Arnett Moultrie, Lavoy Allen, Royce White

As of right now Evan Turner appears likely to start at SG with Thaddeus Young sliding back down to SF, a position he has barely logged any time at over the past three seasons (that Young has succeeded as an undersized PF in Philly his entire career would certainly bode well for Beasley).  There is a huge gaping talent hole in Philadelphia, and Beasley would almost certainly be guaranteed 30 minutes if only because the team would have few other options at both forward spots.

With that said, Philadelphia is in complete tank mode, and may not be interested in risking Beasley making a successful comeback, as that would cost them precious ping-pong balls in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.  The fact that the Sixers are tanking so hard means this is another team Beasley should avoid like the plague, as he can't afford to have another season as an inefficient gunner for a nowhere team (I dare say playing in China would be more beneficial to his career than another NBA season of that).


SF: John Salmons, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Travis Outlaw
PF: Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Patrick Patterson

The Kings are the exact type of situation Beasley should avoid.  While he would be a clear upgrade over John Salmons or Travis Outlaw, Sacramento can't offer him any PF minutes and he would be forced out of position on yet another lottery team.  Hopefully the Kings realize this too (you can't put anything past them, even with the Maloofs out of the picture).


Ultimately, this free agency period will be the defining moment of Michael Beasley's career.  Will he make the right choice, and spend another ten years in the NBA, possibly contributing to deep playoff runs?  Or will he make the wrong choice and find himself looking at a career spent overseas, and a lifetime of "What If" questions?  We should find out soon enough.

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