Michael Beasley: Big small forward or small power forward?

Ya. Michael Beasley is coming to town. I'm excited, and you should be too.


Why? Because he's extremely talented. Because Kahn fully maximized assets and then some on this one. Because B-Easy has the potential to become a go-to player....a legitimate #1 scoring option who can create his own shot anytime, anyplace.

But that's not the point of this piece. I'm not here to sell you on his potential (well, not primarily to...)....I'll let S-n-P dig up his Michael Beasley breakdown from the 08 draft (think Carmelo). No, this little expose is to address something that has haunted Beasley like his own shadow ever since he first set foot on an NBA court:

What position does he play?

Until March Madness 2008 hit full stride, Michael Beasley was considered the runaway #1 pick for the 2008 NBA draft. The man was a monster. As a freshman at Kansas State, Beasley averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 53% from the field (38% from three). He was unstoppable in every basketball sense of the word.

I specifically remember watching Kansas State play Kansas on March 1, 2008. Beasley got in early foul trouble and couldn't shake it all game. I don't think he played more than 4 minutes straight at any given point. Yet at the end of the game, he had tallied 25 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in what was really a superman effort against a vastly superior team.


But that was college, where Bealsey was one of the big boys....not just figuratively, but literally. In the NBA? Not so much.

Those of you with good memories remember the media circus Beasley sparked at the 2008 draft combine sparked. Rather then measuring out at his listed 6'10", Beasley came in at just 6'8.25"....short for a power forward....with a very average wingspan of 7'0.25". All sorts of questions surfaced about whether he was physically able to be an NBA power forward, with Beasley's camp waging a media war with....well, the media over absurdly nitpicky details of height and weight. Beasley himself started getting fed up with the chatter, quipping at one point that he "didn't realize there was a height requirement to play in the NBA".

I'm not sure where Canis Hoopus stands on this, but a quick glance at other Wolves' forums seem to be pretty clear: Beasley is a small forward.

I, however, beg to differ.

At 6'8.25", one would think Beasley is best suited for small forward, yes? His combination of height and length isn't unprecedented among successful power forwards....he's basically equivalent to Josh Smith, Carl Landry, and David Lee....but overwhelmingly the players of his stature are small forwards, and sometimes even shooting guards. Players like Luol Deng, Richard Jefferson, Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, and even LeBron James (he and James are practically identical in size)

BUT....statistically, Beasley performs better as a power forward.

According to 82games, Beasley is markedly better on offense at power forward compared to small forward:


His efficiency in particular makes a big leap when he moves to the 4, and scoring, rebounding, and blocks all make marginal improvements as well.

Although as a whole, his rebounding does need improvement. Fortunately this is more a matter of focus for him than ability.

As a power forward, his free throw rate is the only thing that significantly drops, but that seems to be more a factor of who was on the floor with him when he was at those positions. He simply was going to have the ball more when Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony were playing, compared to Quentin Richardson or Dorell Wright. In everything else, he is basically the same or better as a 4 than a 3.

Likewise, Beasley is also a much more effective defender at power forward:


The difference here is actually pretty remarkable, all things considered. Beasley gives up far fewer points and fouls much less when he plays power forward, and limits his assignment's efficiency mush more effectively.

And finally take a look at the Heats' lineups from last season:


Of all the lineups the Heat utilized last year, the top 4 lineups....and 9 of the top 10....featured Beasley at power forward, not small forward.

Certainly there are a number of factors at play here. Playing closer to the hoop means higher percentage shots on offense, less ground to cover on defense. The Heat undoubtably had more servicable wings than big men, meaning Beasley's time at power forward arguably was out of necessity.

But at the same time, the difference is basically a blanket effect. Beasley is better on offense, on defense, and as a teammate, when he plays power forward.


The reason to bring this up is because there's a legitimate question where Beasley fits on this team. Does he supercede Wes Johnson at small forward? Kevin Love at power forward? Does he start at small forward and push Wes to shooting guard, or maybe not start at all?

Well, first off, assuming Beasley pans out as something at least close to his potential, he needs to start somewhere. And he probably should start somewhere regardless....he's the only player on the roster that has a real shot at being a #1 scoring option. The only go-to player on the team. Those guys don't come off benches, not when they're the only one available.


If Beasley starts at the 3 and Love starts at the 4, we won't have to worry much about his rebounding. Love is an entire frontcourt's worth of rebounding all by himself. But I contend that not only is it better for Beasley to be a power forward, it's better for the team as well.

First, Beasley can create some absolutely nightmarish mismatches for other teams as a 4. The kind that....well, that the Timberwolves fell victim to on seemingly a nightly basis last season. Beasley's a strong shooter with range, with the potential to get even better in that department. He's also quick and athletic in a way few power forwards in the league are, and can handle the ball well enough to exploit that without needing to run of screens and make constant backdoor cuts. And he's a master at creating space for himself in isolation situations, whether it be with a first step, a step back, or something more crafty. He is a shouthpaw after all....a lot of people don't realize how much that can be exploited.

And his post game is pretty good too. He's not exactly Tim Duncan, but he's above average with his footwork and repertoire. That's another facet of his game that can become great with work.

If you have a player who can create mismatches for you on offense at a certain position....without being a liability on defense...then the best thing to do is play him at that position.

Second, consider the type of team we're building. Fast and athletic, with a more perimeter oriented scoring attack using players that can not only score, but move the ball. Not only does Beasley fit pretty much perfectly into that mold, but by playing him at the 4, the team will open up every position to fit that mold by putting Beasley on the floor with Wes Johnson, Corey Brewer, and Martell Webster, rather than opposite of them.

And if you really think about it:

SG Martell Webster
SF Wes Johnson
PF Michael Beasley

That's an absurd amount of athleticism and firepower to field at those three positions. Hardly any team would be able to run with that trio, and defending them would be a true pick-your-poison dilemma.

Put Beasley at the 4. Run the system, and see what he can do. He's an incredibly talented player. Easily...and instantly....the most talented player on the roster. The most talented player since Garnett. He's the BPA for those who care about best players available. He has a world of potential for those who care about upside. The Wolves are in a great position to maximize his talent, both for the team and for Michael Beasley, and playing him at his best position is a big part of that.

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