Can Michael Beasley shed the bust label?

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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.
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