Whither Mike Beasley?

Benjamin Polk —  March 25, 2011 — 15 Comments

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Photo by Marek Wykowski

Michael Beasley’s first quarter against Dallas on Thursday begins like this: he misses a contested jumper off the bounce; he drives to the basket and misses a layup; he misses a flat-footed, contested three; he drives to the basket and gets fouled; he grabs an offensive rebound and misses a jumper; finally, his first shot falls, a driving bank shot at the rim. Later, when Peja Stojakovic enters the game, Beasley struggles to maneuver his way around screens, looks listless and lost in his attempts to find the veteran shooter in transition, is unable to contest Stojakovic’s deep threes. Later, after Beasley sat for most of the fourth quarter in favor of a fiery crew of reserves, he [re]-tweets: “I sure wish coach would just let @RealMikeBeasley play his game!”

Unfortunately, its beginning to look like that was the real Mike Beasley, playing the real Mike Beasley’s game. Earlier this year, when Beasley was draining over 60% of his long jumpers, hitting game winners and providing goofy leadership for his young teammates we wondered if we were seeing a career renaissance before our very eyes, a young talent coming into his own after two seasons languishing on Miami’s bench. But Beasley has regressed back to the mean.

His true shooting percentage for the season is 50.6%, which is nearly identical to his last season’s rate and almost four points below the league average. His PER is 15.3, almost a full point below his career mark. On the other hand, Beasley’s usage rate is 28.2, the highest its ever been in his short career. (All this via Basketball Reference). In other words, although he’s averaging four points per game more than he was last year, Beasley is statistically nearly identical to the player he was in Miami–except that he’s using an even greater share of his team’s possessions. This, friends, is the way that players inflate their scoring numbers on bad teams

Most tellingly, after his run of hot jump-shooting early in the year, he is now hitting just 41% of his shots from 16-23 feet and 37% of his shots from 10-15 (via Hoopdata). Those last two stats are particularly relevant because Beasley’s game is structured around shooting midrange jumpers off the dribble. You could argue that these diminished stats are mainly due to the nagging ankle and hip injuries that have plagued him over the past few months. And to an extent this is probably true. The deeper problem, though, is that Beasley remains a fairly predictable offensive player, and one who needs to stop the flow of the offense in order to play his game.

We Wolves fans have become attuned to the typical Beasley possession. He catches the ball on the elbow extended and sizes up his defender, waiting for the defense to clear the lane. After a few probing dribbles, he then a) drops a quick crossover and rises for a long, usually contested, not usually well-balanced jumper, or b) sweeps into the lane for his running floater. Players are standing still, ball movement has been thwarted and, chances are, the ball has not gone in the basket. As Ron Artest told Myles during Beasley’s hot streak, despite his great gifts, B-Eazy’s predictability makes him a fairly easy cover:

He’s gotta get another sweet spot. He’s a good player. They’ve gotta teach him how to play ball. He could be such a good player, but he’s doing just one thing. He’s so athletic, he could make you work a lot of the time, but he’s just playing one way. He’s going all the way to the hole or he’s going to shoot. He’s not getting no assists. It’s not his fault, he’s a young player. Somebody should tell him.

Things have been getting worse, too. Over the past ten games, Beasley has hit only 40.5% of his field goals (although he has been getting to the line a bit more frequently) and we’ve seen more than our share of the kind of erratic, emotionally fatigued, unaware performance he gave in Dallas. I get it, though; its incredibly hard to sustain the energy and attention necessary to play consistent NBA basketball, when your team has just lost its 55th game. But the Wolves still desperately need him to try. They need a wing player who can consistently do the things that Beasley can do, who can break down the defense and create his own shot. Ron-ron’s right: somebody should tell him.

 

Benjamin Polk

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15 responses to Whither Mike Beasley?

  1. I hope B-easy reads this. He has a whole summer and possible lock out to figure out how to use his talents wisely. It must be hard to be told your whole life that you are great and then achieve greatness. You can do it Mike. As Timberwolves fans we will support you a long the way.

  2. I think the lesson here is the notion that “all a player needs is a change of scenery” is usually nonsense (hello, Darko?). In the end, the player you get on the cheap was cheap for a good reason.

    I have hope for Beasley, but I’m pretty sure that in the end, he’s going to be Michael Beasley. Is improvement possible? Sure, it’s possible. Likely? Boy after watching the team this season I’m just not feeling motivated by a lot of hope right now.

    Maybe a summer off will help me get back there, though.

  3. This guy will never change, I know for a fact that he’s still smoking weed, I’ve got a friend who smokes with him, just wish I had enough cajones to call the League Office and hopefully get this guy on the right track, I still think he gets traded this offseason to make room for Perry Jones.

  4. The problem is Rambis has not clue how to handle B.Easy. Beasley is not the player you punish to get him do what you want him to do. You demand more. You make him do it. It is funny how Frank Martin was able to get so much out of him. Spolestra and Rambis are similar in the approach. Punish a player for not doing what you want him to do. That doesn’t work for Beasley try something else. If pull Beasley out of the game, tell him exactly what you want him to do, and then put him right back in. Not every player is the same, not every player should be handled the same. We also have to remember Beasley has been flip-flopping between the 3 and the 4 for 3yrs. He has not got a chance to develop the mind and skills for a single position. Beasley is diversifying his offensive skills. His assists are up. He is getting to the line more, which means he is taking it to the bucket more instead of settling for jumpers. Beasley is the type of player that reflect the leadership he is under.

  5. Agreed. Scoring points is one thing, but scoring efficiently is what really matters. High percentage shots and low turnovers helps the team win. Beasley needs to improve in both of these areas.

    As a related example, Carmelo Anthony is overrated due to his high PPG, but inefficient FG% numbers. It may get you praise in the media and a $65 million extension, but it isn’t going to help your team win much. (e.g. Knicks)

    Beasley is a young, talented player with much potential, but he just isn’t there yet. I really hope he tries to expand his offensive game, and looks to improve on his passing. I have hopes for the first thing, but the second is a much more difficult thing to improve on.

  6. Rambis needs to put Beas in an offensive set than reduces Beas’ need to shoot off-balance shots. When Beas gets the ball on the wing, it is common for the other 4 players to stop moving.

  7. great article. Beas…put the bogn down and have someone read this to you.

  8. For the record, I don’t think this has anything to do with how smart Beasley is or whether or not he smokes weed (which, by the way, would hardly make him exceptional among pro athletes, or 22-year-old men for that matter). It has to do with the fact that he is an extremely young player who got by on sheer talent until he got to the pros. It is not easy to be the best player in your world for your entire life and then suddenly be surrounded by players with as much or more talent than you. I suspect that the reason Frank Martin got so much out of him is not that Martin is such a better teacher than Rambis, but that Beaz was wildly better, more talented, more athletic than almost anybody he played against that year.

  9. Well, it was a retweet, not a tweet – but it’s a moot point as his Twitter account appears to have been deleted early this morning.

    Now we’ll find out how many URLs I can put in a comment… :)

    Here’s the tweet that he retweeted: http://twitter.com/Twolveslady/status/51116910435250176
    Here’s beat writer Jerry Zgoda noticing it: http://twitter.com/JerryZgoda/status/51153286279069696
    Here’s Zgoda noticing the account is gone: http://twitter.com/JerryZgoda/status/51373294137520128
    Here’s Twolveslady’s reaction: http://twitter.com/Twolveslady/status/51345029482033152

  10. Thanks for the correction. I just revealed how twitter naive I am.

  11. Very good article. Right down to the point. You say in the comments “he is an extremely young player who got by on sheer talent until he got to the pros.” It happens too often that the kids that have the talent and never needs to work for results never learn to do it and once they need to work to still make the team, they don’t know how and fade into oblivion. At least Beasley’s sheer talent has taken him this far. If he weren’t on the wolves, he’d get a lot less minutes on the court. We play him because he is, maybe sadly, on of our better players. He never learned to play defense so that is one thing he needs to learn quickly. I also agree with the predictability of his game and how he slows down the offense. If we had a coach that could teach the players to play defense, we wouldn’t be ranked 30 in the league in defense. And if we had a coach who could teach the players new moves and unpredictability, we would actually win some more games. I don’t think Rambis is the guy to do either of these things. He is too hung up on his offensive scheme that he neglects the obvious. First teach them to compete in this league.

  12. Injuries have played a huge role in Beasley decline. Has he even been healthy this year (jan to present)? You have commentators saying Beasley cant feel the left side of his body and he’s still playing?

  13. It seems to me that Mike Beasley is as frustrated as everyone else that Minnesota is languishing so badly….and I assume that the latest, ludicrously hyped, twitter episode is something that is being stirred up to make the Wolves relevant at the moment.
    Several contributors (above) make salient points…Beasley is not the finished article, if you were expecting him to appear “fully formed” in a T-Wolves uniform then you were deluded. Wipe away his two years at Miami..they were of no consequence…the kid learned nothing from Spoelstra and was badly handled. I don’t put Rambis in the same category as Spoelstra…I think Rambis has got some man-management skills….I think he has been working with Beasley on the passing/distribution and helping him to understand how to become part of an offense. This will not occur overnight ( which is patently obvious ) and there will be no quick fix for the T-Wolves.
    WHYS makes an excellent point in saying that Beasley has flip-flopped between the 3 and the 4 positions. I’d like to see him develop more of an inside game. He has the skills. Veterans are the only thing that will help this team next season…hopefully we won’t have to off-load Beasley to get a really good one.

  14. It’s so hard to read much into the performance of players on bad NBA teams in non-contract years. The Wolves have been out of the running pretty much since the launch of the season and we’re now to the point where they are, mostly, playing for 1/3 full arenas against either other bad teams. Watching this Wolves/Memphis game right now. The combined energy of both teams wouldn’t light a candle.

  15. Actually…now that I think about it, the NBA need to incent better play for non-playoff teams. There are a number of ways to do this. One is give better draft picks to the higher non-playoff teams (and that also keeps the best talent off the rosters of teams like the Clippers). Other would some kind of monetary incentive for best records of non-playoff teams between all-star game and end of season.

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