Like most of you, I was perplexed by Michael Beasley last year.
There were games, like that one against the Clippers, where he demonstrated the potential to become an all-star caliber talent, a true alpha dog player on a team that desperately needed leadership. Unfortunately, there were also games where he seemingly checked out altogether.
I’m not going to judge his motor on last season alone. After all, finding motivation would have been difficult during some of those losing stretches.
Coach Rambis certainly didn’t help matters. He apparently couldn’t decide what he thought of Beasley. In one game, he’d give him the ball in an isolation set during crunch time. In another, he’d sit him on the bench while Luke Ridnour got the last shot. There was no rhyme or reason to what Rambis was doing, and that would have been difficult on any young player trying to find his niche in the NBA.
I think any casual observer of the NBA understood that Beasley had emotional issues headed into last season. He clearly has loads of talent, but he needs the right atmosphere to develop fully. He needs structure. He needs order. He needs a routine. Rambis seemed intent on yanking Beasley around, and that was clearly the wrong approach for a player like Beasley.
And now Rambis is gone. Thank goodness.
So has Beasley hit his ceiling? Could a capable coach get more out of him? Look at his stats. Remember, Beasley’s only 22 years old.
I take three big things from Beasley’s splits over the last three seasons.
1. Beasley was asked to shoulder a larger load in terms of scoring this season, and he responded.
Perhaps the most common complaint on Beasley I heard this season was that, in response to being the team’s go-to scorer, he was inefficient. Fair enough. I grew tired of the missed 21 footers as well.
But statistically, he shot the same percentage from the field (.450) as he did in Miami in 09-10 even with 4 more attempts per game. Despite defenses focusing on Beasley as Minnesota’s main offensive weapon, he still managed similar efficiency to what he did in Miami as a role player. That’s impressive.
2. Beasley still isn’t playing heavy minutes.
He only averaged 32.3 MPG this season. Meanwhile, he averaged 19.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG. If you extrapolate that to a very reasonable 38 MPG for an NBA starter, suddenly Beasley is averaging 22.6PPG and 6.5 RPG. Not bad.
3. Beasley needs to get to the line more.
This is perhaps the most aggravating part of Beasley’s game. He’s incredibly talented at getting to the basket, but he settles for jump shots way too often. Despite his new role in Minnesota, he still only got to the line 4 times per game. That needs to improve, and his FG% will also improve when he stops relying on contested long jumpers.
So how much of that is even Beasley’s fault? Doesn’t the responsibility on #2 and #3 fall with the coach? Carmelo Anthony faced a similar propensity to jack up jump shots in his early years in Denver, until Coach Karl encouraged him to take it to the basket. This allowed Anthony to become one of the deadliest offensive threats in the NBA.
Can a better coach shape Michael Beasley to become a star in this league?
The talent is clearly there. I believe the heart is there as well. He just needs a good teacher – someone who can relate to him on an individual level and get the best out of him. Hiring a legitimate NBA coach will go a long way towards fixing Beasley. Let's hope Kahn (and for that matter, Glen Taylor) prioritize getting a solid coach over getting a cheap one.
I understand the desire to give up on Beasley, to trade him away for a veteran. I think that’s a bad idea. You certainly don’t “sell low and buy high.” Beasley’s trade value isn’t nearly as high as it should be right now, and we shouldn’t give up on him yet.
Give him one more season with a different coach. I think we’ll start to see some magical things out of him.