Michael Beasley ‘better as a player’ in new era of position-less basketball


Michael Beasley is the kind of talented, versatile player perfectly suited to this new position-less NBA. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/ValleyoftheSuns)

PHOENIX — When you look at the composition of the Phoenix Suns’ roster, it seems obvious that Michael Beasley will be spending quite a bit of time at the small forward spot.

After all, before the Shannon Brown signing, Jared Dudley was the only natural wing on the entire roster whereas the Suns can field an entire starting five composed of power forwards if they so choose.

Yet when asked about Beasley’s position at Friday’s press conference multiple times, neither Beasley nor head coach Alvin Gentry really answered the query straight on. Finally, after the presser I asked Beasley if positions even matter anymore.

“They really don’t,” Beasley said. “You’ve got a guy like LeBron James playing the power forward but still playing the point guard on offense, Kevin Durant playing center but still playing two guard, so I feel like as long as you’re a player the position doesn’t really matter.

“I just play. I feel like small forwards are too small, power forwards are too big, too slow. So one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years is take what the defense gives me. Give me a jump shot, take jump shots. Give me a path to the basket, I do that. They double team me, I give up the ball. So I really know how to play both positions. Whatever position I play whether it be two, three or four I just [play].”

This leads us back to the point Beckley Mason made on TrueHoop about there being no such thing as a “tweener” anymore.

Mason writes:

"These “tweeners” are all 6-8 or shorter, and have the following working against them:Smaller than traditional power forwards (example: Kenneth Faried)Have some perimeter skills but not perimeter quickness (Derrick Williams)Or some combination of the two (like Paul Millsap).What to do with such players? Make them small “fours” or beefed up “threes?” It has long been an NBA conundrum, especially because plenty of quality players fit this rough description.It’s a conundrum, however, to which a clear solution is emerging: In today’s NBA, they’re all power forwards."

To the Suns, these players should just be called basketball players.

“Michael can be a three or a four and — who knows — maybe even a two,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “I just think that when you’ve got good players you can put them out on the floor and you can put them in a situation where they can be successful, so the versatility that Michael has is going to be great.”

The NBA in 2012-13 is a matchup game, and although Beasley won’t exactly make the Suns “position-less” like the Heat, his unique skills will lead to more matchup advantages.

In the past the Suns have used the Nash pick-and-roll to create advantageous opportunities either through a switch mismatch or by help leading to a wide open jump shot. With that option now in Los Angeles, the Suns will rely on Beasley to create some of these opportunities, especially with a dearth of players who can create on their own outside of Goran Dragic.

“I think he can be a go-to facilitator where you give him the ball and he creates situations where he either makes the shot or makes the play that gets someone the shot,” Gentry said. “We need that person. We’ve talked about it a lot. We need that person you can throw the ball to who maybe not necessarily scores the point but makes the play that’s going to win games for you, and I think Michael has the ability to do that.

“I like his versatility from the standpoint you can play him as a small forward or a three man and have an advantage as far as post-ups and things like that. You can also play him as a four man and have an advantage as far as going around guys out on the floor. One of the things we talk about as a coaching staff is we’ll have him handle the ball some in screen-and-roll situations. He’s making the play and we’ve got the ball in his hands. We’re very excited about some of the versatility he brings to our team.”

Versatility is the name of the game in today’s NBA and Beasley brings that in spades. He also brings the potential for elite talent, and as we have all surveyed the post-Nash landscape, it’s something the Suns lack in a big way.

To the Suns’ talent guy, general manager Lance Blanks, the 23-year-old Beasley would be at the top of the draft board had he been eligible for selection in the 2012 draft based on that talent he oozes.

“I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my whole career to welcome this young man into our organization,” Blanks said. “It makes sense because we need talented basketball players, and this is one of the most talented players in the league right now. We need talented players as we move into a new era for the organization.”

Added Gentry, “It’s very seldom that you’re able to acquire a guy with the talent level of Michael.”

Beasley is unquestionably a gamble. Based on what he has actually produced and the ups and downs that have gone along with it, the Suns are perhaps overpaying at $6 million a year.

Yet with that supreme versatility and talent in a 23-year-old package, the Suns are gambling on Beasley’s potential. If he ever does figure it out the Suns could have a rising young star for barely more than the mid-level exception, and that’s the kind of gamble the Suns must take as they attempt to rebuild with cap space more than high lottery picks.

As for his position, well, perhaps there will be a day when players are characterized by their skills more than their “position.” For now, Beasley will most certainly be the Suns’ starting small forward, yet in reality he will just be a forward who can take advantage of mismatches and create scoring opportunities for his teammates.

“Honestly, I think I’m better as a player,” Beasley said. “Just put me on the floor, I’ll adjust to whatever we’re doing offensively and defensively, and I make good things happen.”