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.