Friends, your 2011 lockout is blessedly over. I’d like to be able to tell you that this means that we can just forget it all and move on. But, for many reasons, we can’t. Owners will continue exploit every possible CBA wrinkle in order to personally embed diamonds into Drew Gooden’s (and Jerome James’, and Gilbert Arenas’) molars. People like the Maloofs will continue to invest in real estate bubbles in unlivable cities. Michael Jordan will continue to distill himself into a chewy white paste of sour self-interest. Certain players will continue to cash their paychecks in Cheesecake Factory bucks (if they existed). Michael Beasley will continue to be Michael Beasley.
I thought of B-Easy often during this lockout and not just because he got busted for weed, fell over in a pickup game, pushed a fan in the face, referred to the lockout as “retarded” and sued both is former agent and his AAU coach. I thought of him because in many ways this lockout was about players like him. The Union is all but required to secure as much money as humanly possible for its members not simply out of greed or charter, but because many players share some or all of his defining qualities. His adolescent education was itinerant and skeletal; he was a special ed kid who floated from high school to high school, carried along only by his serious hoop skills. He went to college for one year (and probably less, if we’re honest). He probably won’t ever get that massive deal and his career might not last very long. A guy like that really needs Billy Hunter to do some work.
It pains me to say these things because, in my experience, Mike Beasley has been a totally likeable guy. I’ve seen him sing to himself with deep passion; I’ve seen him make a funny and totally not offensive joke about Kevin Love’s grandmother; I’ve seen him eat Skittles like a starving eight-year-old. So let me tell you why I worry that his rank of 109th on #NBARank may be the high watermark of his career.
1) His offensive game is high-volume, low-efficiency, unidimensional and inconsistent. We all know the paradigmatic Beasley possession. He holds the ball on the right wing, simultaneously sizing up his opponent and bleeding the shot-clock to within an inch of its life. Which sizing up is funny because everybody–you, me, the ball defender, the weakside help defender and probably B-Easy himself–knows what will happen next. He will drive left, pulling up at around the free-throw line; he will take a contested jumper. Chances are (about a 63% chance actually), he’ll miss it. Most of us know the numbers by now: .514 career true shooting percentage; 27.3 career usage rate; bad news.
2) His defense is inattentive, his effort mercurial. His situational recognition–should I help or stay home? Should I sag into the paint or close out on that shooter?–is slow and often poor. And when his shot isn’t falling or the Wolves are struggling, that glint in his eye gets a little dull.
3) The Wolves just drafted a more efficient, more physical, probably more driven version version of him. One of Rick Adelman’s most pressing challenges is to find an effective, balanced frontcourt rotation. And although the rookie learning curve in a foreshortened season will be extra steep, my guess is that by season’s end Derrick Williams will be seeing the lion’s share of the small forward minutes.
We very much hope these things improve; we want a player as likeable and talented as Beasley to succeed, for his sake and for the Wolves’. It’s certainly not unheard of for players t0 become more creative, more driven or more efficient as they mature. But doing all of those things really is a tall order. There is just so much of Beasley’s game that needs to improve and doing so requires such incredible stores of focus, attention and discipline. These, I’m afraid, are qualities that Beasley hasn’t really shown he possesses.