Can Michael Beasley shed the bust label?


Michael Beasley was supposed to be a superstar.

Not unlike Kevin Durant the season before, he took college basketball by storm during his one and only season in Manhattan, Kan., averaging an absurd 26.2 points and 12.4 boards in 31.5 minutes a game while shooting 53.2 percent and averaging almost three combined steals and blocks a game.

Although it seems silly now, there was a legitimate argument for Beasley to be picked No. 1 overall in the 2008 draft if it were not for the fact that Derrick Rose’s hometown team owned that selection.

Yet four years into his NBA career, Beasley is very much not a superstar. The Minnesota Timberwolves chose not to extend an expensive qualifying offer to him after acquiring him for a mere two second-round picks, and once he hit free agency he had other offers but did not feel the need to meet with any other team after the Phoenix Suns “embraced” him and offered him $6 mil a year, a healthy salary sure but far from superstar money.

That $18 million over three years is essentially a gamble that Beasley will play more like the star he was projected to become than the relative bust he has been through four NBA campaigns.

So why he has he turned into a journeyman scorer on his third NBA team in five years rather than a franchise player?

The off-the-court issues provide the most obvious answer to that question. Beasley has made some mistakes in that realm with his marijuana problems and has acted immaturely at times.

Weak Side Awareness analyzed the reason Beasley has disappointed thus far and whether he can bounce back and concluded that although it’s easy to say he is “just a knucklehead … he was put in a position to fail.”

The post provides three pieces of data to support the conclusion that Beasley has failed because he has played far too much as a small forward when he’s really a power forward.

First off the post points out that Beasley is closer to power forward size and athleticism rather than small forward size.

Second, there’s a chart that shows he is “really good at the rim and shockingly he has an above average efficiency on both long jumpers and threes,” but the problem is in the distribution of attempts. Over 60 percent of Beasley’s shots every year have been long twos, and he’s never even had 30 percent worth of layups/dunks/tips.

Although he is a pretty good relative long two-point shooter, it’s impossible to be an efficient player when you take so many shots from that inefficient range. According to their chart, he took 11.1 two-point jumpers per game in 2010-11. 11.1!

Then, there is team fit. With Udonis Haslem in Miami and Kevin Love in Minnesota entrenched at the four, centers with a big contract in both locales (JO in Miami and Darko in Minny) and “easily replacable and cheap role-players at small forward” it seems obvious why he got more minutes at the three than the four.

Finally, the piece cites a list of lineups that played together for at least 30 minutes on 82games.com and found all but one above average Beasley lineup has him at the four and 16 of 28 below average lineups have him at the three.

The problem with all this is that Beasley will most certainly be a three in Phoenix as well with an army of power forwards who must play in Luis Scola, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris. With Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal at center, there just aren’t many frontcourt minutes to go around.

On the flip side, it’s likely Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown will share the two spot, which leaves just Wes Johnson at the three aside from Beasley. In other words, it looks like the Suns will be making the same apparent mistake Miami and Minnesota did.

Now personally I don’t believe in “positions” these days so much as the roles players play. Is Dudley a two or a three? Is Johnson a two or a three? Is Frye a four or a five? Does it really matter?

I suppose it might if the Suns keep Beasley on the perimeter taking long twos all day. Perhaps there won’t be room to operate on the interior, but with a theoretically smaller defender on him the Suns should make this a priority.

For what it’s worth, Beasley and the Suns don’t seem to think it matters what position he plays, although based on this Weak Side Awareness analysis perhaps they should.

At just 23 years of age, it’s easy to see why Beasley’s talent was tantalizing to the Phoenix Suns.

Four years ago, Beasley practically broke John Hollinger’s Draft Rater with the best rating for a player dating to 2002 by a wide margin at that point, and only Anthony Davis has been ranked higher since.

“Somehow Beasley didn’t resonate quite as strongly [as Durant], perhaps because of concerns over his character, but if he keeps his head on straight he’s going to be insanely good,” Hollinger wrote back then.

Wages of Wins’ Arturo Galletti told me earlier this week on Twitter that Beasley is the “biggest miss ever for [his] draft model.”

Yesterday I asked Galletti why he thinks that’s the case, and he replied, “He was successful in college as a low post scoring, undersized power forward. This was the role he also played in Miami. Trying to turn him into a jumpshooting wing is where the problem lies.”

The talent in Michael Beasley is undeniable and always has been. But if he’s ever going to put it all together to come close to reaching the potential so many saw in him, it will be up to the Suns to put him in the right positions to succeed.

And 1

  • Mike Schmitz will take a deeper look at Beasley in his next offseason video on Tuesday.
  • Wes Johnson settled into the No. 322 spot in #NBARank. Johnson and Sebastian Telfair (No. 369) were the only Suns ranked in the bottom 200.

Tags: Michael Beasley

  • Scott

    It’s puzzling why teams continue to put players in positions to fail.

    You’d think GMs and coaches would be more savvy than that.

  • http://jtshoopsblog.blogspot.ca JT’s Hoops Blog

    I don’t think Michael Beasley was a bust. Look at his number over the past four years in his career. They’ve been pretty solid

    Here are his career numbers

    15.1ppg, 5.6rpg, .455FG%, .355 3pt%, in less than 30 minutes per game.

    He’s not a superstar, but he has shown to be a rather productive player nonetheless.

  • Max

    He just needs better shot selection. Look at Lebron, he’s a small forward but in the past two years hes been in the post on all the smaller players. We need to have Beasley post up 3′s and work around him. He’s our most talented player now and we need to utilize him like his college coach did. Beasley can still be a star, he just needs to come into the season in shape and focused on playing smart and taking better shots.

  • Ben

    He is clearly a power forward. I don’t know why you would ever play him at the three. Drives me crazy. Get that boy in the paint.

  • Ty-Sun

    The worst case scenario is that Beasley doesn’t play well at the 3 OR at the 4. If he works out better at the 4 than the 3 then the Suns at least have some assets that they can trade after Dec. 15 to bring in another wing to fill that hole in the lineup. If Beasley becomes the Suns best option at the 4 spot, Scola, Morris and perhaps even Frye become very good trade bait for other teams.

    Until then – IF Beasley proves best at the 4 – the Suns could use Tucker sparingly in the 2/3 rotation with Dudley, Brown and Johnson. Dragic could even slide over into the 2 spot at times with Marshall or even Telfair playing point. I can also see times where Beasley and Morris are on the court together where they alternate between the 3 and 4 spots. That could really screw up the opposing team’s defense. One time down the court Beasley plays the 3, Morris plays the 4… the next Morris plays the 3 and Beasley plays the 4. That way you get the other team’s 3 trying to guard the Suns’ 4. When the defense switches, the players switch positions again. It could be very effective. The Suns will have a lot of versatile players this year which they could use to their advantage.

  • Tony

    The problem with Beasley, besides his history of immaturity, is that he is too big to play sf and too small to play pf. Moreover, unlike Morris who is also undersized for a pf but makes up for it to some degree with his physical strength, Beasley has yet to show he’s strong enough to score and guard against opposing pfs.

    And let’s face it, if he couldn’t prove his value to Rick Adelman and Pat Riley, is it really likely he will do so under Alvin Gentry?

  • Boris

    this is all ridicules, he can play point for all I care the only thing is he needs to get the ball in positions where he scores, which means spot up threes or of the ball picks to get him to switch down into the post or lower block and have gortat or scole move into the high post for a shooting option if he can’t get a clean look. Also, although I am not a fan of simple isolations, he may need to get some simple elbow isos like Carmelo Anthony. And I would like to see how he fits into the Suns transition game as I’m sure with Dragic at pg our break style won’t change from the nash days (or even the Kevin Johnson days) getting him into low block positions before the defense is set or even some wing attacking before a set defense is put in place should be good for him.

  • Ty-Sun

    Beasley was never coached by Riley in Miami, he was coached by Spoelstra in his two year there. In his first year in Minnesota he was coached by Kurt Rambis and in his second year by Adelman who had him coming off the bench for all but 7 games last year. It seems odd to me that Beasley’s most offensively productive year (19.2 ppg) came under Kurt Rambis when he started all 73 games that he played in the 2010-11 season. Also his career high 42 points in a single game came during that season too. Hmmm… was he playing PF or SF that year? I think he was playing SF because the T-Wolves had some guy named “Love” playing the PF spot back then who also only played 73 games that season. And the stats show that Love scored a total of 75 points more than Beasley that ENTIRE season. That’s a tiny bit more than 1 point more scored per game.

    Surely that’s proof that Beasley is a complete and total bust and not worth the Suns taking a chance on.

    Yeah… right.

    When is the last time any Suns player scored 42 points in a game? When is the last time one scored 32 points in a game? Beasley’s worth the shot he’s been given. The kid has talent which hopefully he will CONSISTENTLY put to use with the Suns.

    And yes he’s still a “kid” at 23.

  • Rey

    I really think if they give Beasley the ball in the post/low-block he will be great.

    The position is not the problem (on offense), it is where he catches the ball. If you give him the ball on the top of the key he will not be great.

    If you get him close to the basket or even 15 feet out, he will score everytime, 3 or 4, no problem.

    The Phoenix coaching staff has to use this kid right … you don’t average 26-12 and not have talent.

  • somacat

    Hi all, Miami fan here…*ducks*

    From my experience, it’s pretty clear he has talent, and can score with modest efficiency. In Miami, he was ‘brought along slowly’ due to maturity concerns – I thought he’d find more success in Minnesota as the ‘good scorer on a bad team’, but with Kevin Love’s ascension as an offensive threat, I he became somewhat redundant in this department due to his shortcomings. He *does* have an issue with decision-making, and probably needs to be paired with an excellent point guard, as well as given free reign offensively in isolation situations to allow his creativity as a scorer to shine through. As multiple posters above have said, the closer to the basket he can start his move the better. Defensively, while not *good*, he showed a willingness to apply himself. But his boom or bust is likely to be on the other end of the court, and probably directly proportional to how much focus he has within the offence. I think he can provide you guys with a high usage / medium efficiency scorer if used to his potential.

  • Zack B.

    I completely agree with Ty-Sun. But for the record, the last Sun to score 32 was Shannon Brown against the Spurs. I don’t see why he’s not the permanent starter. He plays better as one and Duds is better in a 6th man role. We just acquired Wes and it would be unfair to start him right away. SB averaged 15 as a starter. When I say permanent I mean for this season. I still think he has All-Star potential himself. Less than Beasley obviously. This is what I love about our current roster. Beez, SB, Wes, Marshall, Morris. Those are 5 potential-filled players right there. I would of preferred T-Will over Wes, but then again who wouldn’t? I love T-Will, and you guys would too if you learned more about him. Back to our Suns, I’m more of a develop your core type of guy, than look for trades and signings constantly. Unless we can work something out for a star. I think SB is more than a stop-gap. I think he knows he has to prove that. If he has that starting role, I believe he can. Then come Free Agency next summer, we pick up a stud. I’m hoping for Tyreke Evans, I think he’d be cheaper and he’s better overall than Harden.

  • Scott

    To sum up the analysis of Beasley at SF: poor decision making on offense (takes too many questionable shots), slow on defense, and poor rebounding.

    He’s one of 3 players with the Suns this season who are said to have low b-ball IQ and court vision. (Beasley, Brown, and WJ.) He’s one of two players with questionable defense. (Beasley, Brown)

    I don’t think the Suns should be acquiring ANY players with low b-ball IQ or questionable defense. There are players out there that the Suns passed over in their zeal to acquire Beasley and Brown, just like they passed over players seasons ago in their zeal to sign Childress and Warrick, despite their obvious shortcomings.

    Early in the FA period, my preference was for the Suns to donate a 2nd round pick to Toronto in exchange for James Johnson, who has a small expiring contract. I don’t know whether he’s a solid headcase, borderline headcase, or not one at all, but his defense and his offensive numbers have been improving at SF, even though he’s big for that position. By all the numbers, including the financial ones, he would have been a good choice for the Suns. (Instead, Sacramento picked Johnson up for a 2nd round pick, which may point to him being a headcase … because that seems to be what Sacramento is looking for these days.)

    BTW … that Beasley 42 point game that Ty-Sun mentions … that came in a loss, right? If so, the point would be that Beasley scored all those points probably because the other team said, “Let’s make them route all their offense through Beasley. We’re sure to win that way.”

  • Rey

    @Scott:

    No, they won the 42 pt game, and before Beasley sprained his ankle, he had a stretch where he was averaging 25+ and the TWolves were very competitive.

    The knock on the Wolves was they were one of the best 1st 3 quarter teams and kept choking in the 4th at the time … Beasley was really coming into his own but then injuries really stunted his development.

    I think Suns fans will be pleasantly surprised by a 20 ppg scorer this season!

  • JBJ

    I think Beasley can be effective at both positions. He needs to improve on his post game though. Beasley is 6’9 240 pounds. He should be able to bully small forwards in the post. Apparently he is working on this. He also needs to improve on his shot selection and play making.

    Ultimately, the only way Beasley will be great at small forward is if he attacks the basket more and plays in the post. He that ability. Hopefully all of this work he is doing in the off season will transition on the court.

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  • Scott

    @Rey -

    Well, I look forward to good production from Beasley. It will be great for the Suns, and it won’t hurt his reputation, either. :)

    @JBJ -

    James Johnson is listed as 6’9″ and 248 lbs. If he can defend as well as they say at SF, then you’d think Beasley might have a shot too.

    FWIW, Beasley is listed as 6’10″ but unless he’s grown since the draft, he’s only 6’8″ in shoes.

  • Scott

    That Beasley 42 point game, BTW, came in early Nov of 2010 against the Kings, and Telfair was at PG (for 40 min). Love only played 28 min in that game, and was largely shut down.

    Beasley scored 42 on 17 of 31 shooting, with 18 of his points coming in the first quarter and 27 in the first half. A lot of his points came on drives to the basket. Telfair added 16 pts, and WJ had 12 pts and 7 rebounds.

    The Wolves won, 98-89.

    The high score for the Kings came from Casspi, who scored 17 pts on 7 of 14 shooting. The Kings had a record of 3-4 after that game.

  • Joe

    Beasley has the talent to be a star in the NBA. He’s had great games against great teams:

    2010-11
    OKC
    37 min 15 pts 7 reb
    32 min 26 pts 6 reb
    44 min 30 pts 9 reb
    31 min 20 pts 8 reb

    He just hasn’t been consistent. If his work ethic and mindset have improved under the mentorship of Norm Nixon then it’s quite possible this could be a breakout year for him.

    I’ve said this before, if he can average 18 pts at a decent percentage and 8 rebs this year, then this Suns team is a James Harden or Tyreke Evans away from being a contender. Especially if O’Neal can overcome his health issues with the help of the Suns medical staff.

    I know there are a lot of “ifs” but this scenario is not unlikely when you look at some of the games Beasley has had in the past and consider that he is saying the right things now, about wanting to get his career going and wanting to be an All-Star.

    We just have to wait and see what happens when the season starts.

  • Joe

    @Zack B. Just from a gut feeling standpoint, I prefer Tyreke Evans as well. He looked like a star his rookie season. Harden faded away in the Finals. That’s not a good sign, but it will hopefully be an experience he learns from.

  • Joe

    Also, at this point Harden is over valued and Evans is under valued.

  • Rey

    Beasley’s problem has nothing to do with position … when he was a 4, people said he should be a 3 and vice versa.

    He just has to play inside-out. If he starts the game by attacking from the low-block/mid-post, he will be awesome! That should set up his perimeter game.

    If he starts the game jacking up 19 foot step-backs, he will be mediocre.

    It is not a question of 3/4, it is a question of his style of play.

  • steve

    Who are the other people on that “biggest miss ever” list? What years does Galletti’s list cover?

    I find it hard to believe that Beasley is a bigger miss than guys like Michael Olowokandi or Kwame Brown. How about Darko? That model is broken, if you ask me.

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      @steve It looks like his list goes back to 1995 and does cover the Kandi man (whom he ranked 6th among college players in that ’98 draft). I don’t believe Darko or Kwame are on the list since they didn’t have college stats to project from.

      Keep in mind that “bust” is in terms of Wins Produced, and Beasley has been downright awful in that department, particularly in his supposedly great 2010-11 season. If I didn’t miss something, Beasley’s college production led to the second-highest projection of all players in this time (to DeJuan Blair of all players), and for him to be such a poor Wins Produced player despite that kind of projection, I see what Galletti means.

      Now, if you want to gripe with WP48, that’s a completely different matter, but that is why Beasley is such a big bust in Galletti’s model.

  • steve

    Ah, college players. I see. In that case, I definitely see why Beasley is on that list at this point. He was one of the best college players I’ve ever seen, and so far, he’s been a pretty poor NBA player.

    And no, I definitely don’t want to gripe with WP48. I am amazed at its accuracy and reliability, and I have to agree with what it reveals about Beasley. So far, he hasn’t been very good.

  • Ty-Sun

    After doing a little research on how the WP48 is calculated, my first impression was that whoever came up with this statistical formula was either a genius or insane. As I looked more closely at it I decided that he was BOTH.

    But in one article I found a list of the top 50 players based on WP48 for the 2010-11 season. I was a bit shocked to see that Landry Fields was #8 on that list, just behind Steve Nash (#7) and ahead of Rajon Rondo (#9). Jared Dudley was also ranked #49 on that list, just behind James Harden (#48)… and both were ranked below Ronnie Brewer (#31) and Beno Udrih (#33). And Kobe Bryant didn’t make the top 50 although Pau (#6), Odom (#13) and Bynum (#38) did.

    But like all statistics, it’s a BACKWARD looking tool. It give you info on what already happened which you can draw inferences on to predict what might happen in the future BUT those are still just predictions. And those predictions are based on PAST performance in specific situations which is why I don’t rely too much on statistics alone. My statistics professor in collage once showed me how you could statistically show that cancer was linked to drinking milk. You couldn’t argue with the statistics. The math showed an overwhelming connection between cancer and drinking milk. But it was an exercise in showing how statistics could be misinterpreted and misused.

    I’m certainly not saying that the WP48 stats are useless – not at all am I saying that – but they are based on past performance in a team sport. And in team sports, individual stats are influenced by the team as well as by the individual, especially in basketball.

  • Scott

    @Ty-Sun -

    Stats always need interpretation, that’s for sure.

  • Moses

    Beasley’s problem all has to do with support. His coaches, with the exception of Rambis, have all not really supported him. He’s had a very short leash for whatever reason.

    Hopefully that is an entirely different story here and he will get all the time he needs to develop. Durant wasn’t great right out of the gate, but he had unconditional support from his coaches. Look at him now.

  • http://none.com Russell

    The main problem with Beasley playing the PF position is he is much smaller at only 6″7 (Yes we all know he is listed at 6″9 and 6″10 ) but he is no where near that height , not on this planet.

    Add the fact that he can’t out rebound guys and he becomes a liability both defensively and on the boards. So his best position is the 3, leave him there just allow him to go inside. He will be fine. Now if he plays at the 4 he’ll score a ton, but even the scrub Power Forwards will score back on him because they will destroy Beasley with their height and strength which he lacks.

  • steve

    @Russell

    “he can’t out rebound guys”

    “Can’t” is a strong word. Rodman wasn’t a monster, but he had the will and determination to get every rebound available. Barkley was SG height, yet he led the league twice in TRB% during the playoffs and managed to regularly grab 20 boards a game. Beasley “can” board.

    Also, I realize Beasley isn’t the biggest PF of all time, but height is not necessarily a requirement to be able to play D well, (especially when the different between Beasley and the average NBA PF is a measly 2″), and I don’t know if I’d say he lacks strength. 235 isn’t huge, but it’s not like he’s an ant. Paul Millsap, a guy who can bang down low with the bigs, is listed at 6’8″, 245, for example. The difference between Millsap and Beasley, in my opinion, is that Beasley has not worked to improve himself and use his strengths, to this point, as Millsap has.

    It’s the safe bet to doubt that Beasley will figure it out. I understand that. But there are so many people doubting his *ability* when I think that’s the last thing about him that should be questioned. His *ability* is astronomical. His *will-power* has been completely suspect thus far.

  • Andres

    At least there’s someone that thinks the Suns are not set for failure this season

    http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-offseason-teams-set-up-to-fail/

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  • JBJ

    @ Scott Yea Beasley can be a good defender if he puts in the effort. Beasley actually played decent defense in his second season in Miami. Spo wouldn’t play him unless he improved on defense.

    I don’t know why Beasley is listed at 6’10. Beasley has never seen 6’10. I remember Miami Heat reporting that Beasley grew to 6’8 during the off season going into his second season. So he is probably 6’9 or real close to it in shoes. Beasley at 6’9 240 pounds is an issue for any small forward in the league if he gets his stuff together.