Beasley unbound

Benjamin Polk —  November 28, 2011 — 10 Comments

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.

 

Benjamin Polk

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10 responses to Beasley unbound

  1. I think there’s a good chance that Beasley will be the first to go, once Adelman has a real chance to assess this roster and the tools at his disposal. But I have a few issues about this post and whatever it is that is driving it:

    1) How is Beasley’s game one dimensional? You describe a common move of his. Every player has a go-to move. KG’s right-shoulder fadeaway, LeBron’s dribble drive from the top, Duncan’s square-up bankshot, etc. Beasley is a solid three-point shooter with reasonable volume. He can play with his back to the basket. He has shown the ability to screen and roll. It is completely disingenuous to describe his offensive game as “unidimensional.” You’re just trying to pile on as many insults as can fit in this narrative.

    2) His defensive woes listed there could describe any number of Timberwolves from the ’10-11 Season. I don’t doubt that his will linger (although his leaner frame may help some in defending the perimeter) but it should at least be acknowledged that last year’s Wolves were pathetic from a team standpoint at defending the perimeter. There was never a consistent plan, except for the nights when triple-teaming the post and leaving (pick a role player/shooter who had a career night versus Minnesota) wide open for three.

    3) How do you know that Derrick Williams will be more efficient and physical than Beasley, and that he has enough qualities to even be classified as a “version” of Beasley? His college stats? Take a look at Beasley’s, sometime. There is no guarantee that D-Thrill can be a 20/5/2 guy with reasonable shooting accuracy at the small forward position. I’d say there is more doubt about Williams’ ability to play the 3 than Beasley. The positional battle for the future on this team could very well be Love versus Williams at the 4.

    4) There isn’t “so much about Beasley’s game that needs to improve.” He needs to improve his defensive focus and his ability to draw fouls.

    What is the standard that you’ve set, exactly, for Beasley to reach? LeBron James? Even the player that he’s been from ages 20 to 22 is worthy of minutes on a good team. Hell, he was a starter and solid contributor for playoff teams in Miami.

  2. Hey Andy thanks for the detailed comment, I appreciate it.

    1) This is much more than his go-to move. Perhaps, “unidimensional” was the wrong word–as you said he does shoot the three and play off the pnr from time to time. But “predictable” might be more like it–and opposing defenders have said as much. He holds the ball for a predictable amount of time, he uses predictable attack angles, he rarely uses counters. Beasley’s game is disproportionately midrange and off the dribble and he’s not an efficient midrange shooter. He hits .349% of his threes–I wouldn’t call that solid. And for such an inefficient shooter, his usage rate is up in Durant/Wade/Lebron territory. I wouldn’t call that reasonable.

    2) I’ve pointed out many times the Wolves’ team defensive problems. You’re right that there was a lot wrong with the Wolves, but not everybody showed the same inattention and inconsistent effort as Beasley. In fact, I’d argue that, along with their inexperience and Rambis’ inability to teach his systems, the fact that Beasley was guarding the wing so often was a large part of their defensive disaster.

    3) I don’t know it for sure, but if you look at their college stats, Williams had similar scoring and rebounding stats to Beasley but did his work at the foul line, at the rim and from three. Whereas Beasley scored the highest volume of his points from the midrange at KState. And getting to the line and three-point shooting translate much better to the NBA–they are, apart from dunks, the most efficient shots in the game–than does a midrange jumpshooting, which is the least efficient way to score. As for playing the three, there are certainly no guarantees that Williams will thrive there. But since Beasley is also playing out of position at the three, I’m giving the nod to the more efficient guy.

    4) His focus on all aspects of the game. His consistency of effort. His grasp of team concepts on both ends of the floor. His shot selection. His offensive creativity and consistency. His ability to get to the line. His three-point shooting.

    The problem with players like Beasley is that they are scorers first and foremost. And scorers can kill a team if they shoot inefficiently, take bad shots and don’t help the team in other areas of the game. Those Miami teams were playoff teams for exactly one reason and it absolutely wasn’t that Michael Beasley was shooting the ball a third of the time.

  3. Good points – and sorry if that came off a tad feisty.

    My general take on Beasley is similar to the one I had about Al Jefferson, here in Minnesota, which is that he is a flawed player, but also one that a team can win with. He just can’t be the best player. It helps to have players that can put the ball in the basket. It was a popular move when JR Rider was shipped out of Minnesota, and one that we probably look back on as a wise decision. But what’s also sometimes forgotten is that he was a leading scorer on some competitive Blazers teams, and it’s possible that he would have made a nice pairing with Kevin Garnett (or maybe a horrible, horrible influence on him off the court, who knows?)

    On these Wolves, the high usage for Beasley was out of necessity and a lack of set plays. At least that was my observation. It never seemed as if he was a ball hog or a guy who complained about getting shots. He was just the only guy who could get his own shot in a system that required players to get their own shot. I’m interested to see (provided he isn’t dealt in the coming weeks) how he is used in a real offense.

    I’m high on Williams–I just think he seems pretty big for a perimeter player and his game might be more Amar’e than Melo, for some hopeful comparisons.

  4. andyG got it right, nobody was willing or able to take shots in that offense, only beasley.
    those numbers he put up is actually pretty good for an offense so badly coordinated.

    all you m——z just wait, when beasley has a pg to play with n a proper coach n a good team to support him, and barrin injuries (wich did screw things up last year) this dude will explode!!!!!!!!

  5. Assuming that Adelman/Kahn decided that Beasley is indeed redundant due to the presence of Williams, what can be done about it? Is he tradeable at this point? And given that Miami only got 2 second round picks for him, would trading him really help the Wolves more than keeping him around as an insurance policy against Williams’ slow development? It’s interesting to think about whether his trade value has gone up or down since the Wolves got him. On the one hand, Miami was desperate to unload him asap, hurting their return. On the other hand, he had an inefficient season and has has goobered his way through the lockout…

  6. This guy is a good player. His 1st couple of years were filled with growing pains for him and the heat. He was and still is immature. Being in an organization like the wolves was both good and bad for him last year. Good because he got his confidence back and didn’t have to defer to anyone. Bad because Rambis was completely over his head and couldn’t coach a good AAU team. I think they should keep him and see if Adelman can create a competition for minutes with Williams. At least until the trade deadline. He is still the only player on the roster who can get his own shot and if motivated, i think he can be a 20/5 guy. So happy they are going to be hooping soon!

  7. My prediction is that whatever happens with Beasley will be a ‘tell’ as to who pulls the personnel strings on this team. In many ways Beasley is the kind of talent and player Adelman may take special interest in developing. On the other hand, Adelman may have different ideas on where this team should go.

    On a side note – anyone else wonder if this team will be run a bit like Team USA last summer, in that they’ll keep all these players and really work to identify specific roles for each guy instead of letting each guy try to showcase all of his abilities?

  8. What a great discussion! I like Beasley. He was our only player who could create his own shots it seemed like and all though he wasn’t to effecient, when he gets jacked up he had some moments where he looked like he could be a realy star. I really hope we keep him to see what he can do with a GREAT coach and Rubio. Heck, everyone on that team is new to us, isn’t K love our longest tenured T wolf? One more year!

  9. I disagree with all of you who think Beasley did a great job and was the only one that dared take a shot. The way I saw the game flow was that once someone passed to him it was a one-man show. It was Beasley against the opposition. No way he was going to pass. He was going to shoot. And he used the same move every time cause it’s the only one he has. He’d miss most of the attempts. Sure he could score in the 20s but he still only converted on about .4 of the attempts. Imagine if he was able to pass the ball instead. Then his game would have an element of unpredictability which would benefit the wolves not only from the fact that he would share the ball so other players could attempt shooting it, but also would improve his chances to score if he decided to go for it. Beasley is the last player I’d like on my team.

  10. He’s 22 years old and if he would of stayed in college which a player like him always should he would of matured and developed a better game. Given that and 3 years of NBA experience beasley isnt a finished product this would be his rookie year if he stayed in college. Miami gave up on him far to fast because they needed cap room and it would be a huge mistake for minnesota not to see if he matures and becomes a better player in the next year or 2.

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