It is my belief that what we are seeing right now with Michael Beasley is a fundamental reframing of how he sees himself contributing as an NBA player. Michael Beasley was a volume scorer. Michael Beasley was lazy on defense. Michael Beasley was inefficient.
But Michael Beasley also got to the line, could rebound, could pass relatively well for his position, and has the size and athleticism to defend well if he chose to (and worked on it).
So who is Michael Beasley - or more to the point, who should we want Michael Beasley to be as a player, either here or elsewhere? For most people the comparison has always been to Carmelo Anthony, and yet I just don't get the sense that Rick Adelman particularly wants that from Beasley. It has been noted recently that Beasley won't take shots, at least compared to his own history - he's tied for his lowest FGA per 36 right now, and is sporting his lowest USG% of his career this season. Arguably his biggest problem right now is that he can't hit a shot and he's averaging a career low FTA rate by far.
However, to focus on Beasley's scoring is to miss what might be the point, and that is that for Beasley to truly tap into his talent in the NBA his ideal role is not as a scorer. Or put differently, he's going to have to check his ego at the door and focus on how he can help a team win games instead of satisfying some unrealistic notion of what he should be but in 6000+ NBA minutes has never proven to be - an NBA lead scorer.
Now I get that there are probably going to be a lot of people debating my assertion that Beasley has never shown an all-around game or the defensive aptitude that I will argue is what he needs to embrace to become all that he can be in the League, and I encourage those arguments. I'm not completely sold on this idea myself, but in thinking about Beasley's play and Adelman's comments about him this year (needing to get his shots and not stand for seconds at a time - in other words, a change of philosophy from trying to satisfy some 'ideal' as an iso scorer versus making use of his existing talent) and then noticing that he's been pulling down more boards lately (22 rebounds vs. 28 FGAs the last two games, compared to 27 rebounds vs. 71 FGAs his first five games - or in my mind perhaps the first inkling that he's trying to do more to help his team win than just score) - well, I just keep arriving at similar notions that the Michael Beasley who is productive and effective in this league is not this guy.
More arguments/provocative thoughts after the jump.
TrueHoop this morning kind of sums up my thoughts on why I'm not sure I buy into the idea that 'Beasley as scorer' is what is most helpful for this team or for Beasley's career:
Presumably, one of the reasons the Knicks went out and acquired Carmelo Anthony was because they viewed him as a franchise cornerstone, difference-maker type player. While no one doubts his scoring prowess, it’s fair to question whether he has a tangible impact on a team’s ability to win games.
Over the last two seasons, the Knicks are two games over .500 before acquiring Anthony, and two games under after Anthony became a Knick. Their points scored, allowed and field goal percentage are virtually the same before and after Anthony.
The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are 23-9 since trading Carmelo Anthony, after sitting at 32-25 last season before trading their superstar. Only the Bulls have a better record since Feb. 22, 2011, the date of the trade.
(Ed. note - the bolding is mine).
Which got me thinking - well how in the world did the Nuggets do so well if they didn't have one of the best 'go-to' scorers in the league, a guy who averaged 25.6 ppg last year (AKA 0.5 fewer ppg on nearly 4 more FGA/36 than Love this year, but I digress)? They did it with by substituting Gallinari for Anthony.
Now, this post isn't about Gallinari per se, but it is about the idea that when you have a dynamic point (be it Rubio or Lawson), a creative and high caliber coach (be it Adelman or Karl), a very productive big man (be it Love or Nene), and a bunch of athletic role playing wing types, you don't need an inefficient volume scorer sporting a high 20's to low 30's USG%. Short of having Kevin Durant on your team it's looking pretty good to have a guy who fits in with an overall team concept and allows your best players to be your best players (Lawson and Nene, or Rubio and Love).
Check out the above link again and look at some of the per36 stats, and then look at the WS and WS/48 that Melo and Gallo put up last year. Gallo essentially equaled Melo despite taking 8 fewer shots/36, despite scoring nearly 10 fewer points/36, despite attempting fewer FTs, grabbing fewer boards, and dishing fewer assists. Their shooting percentages are nearly the same, Melo is much better rebounder, but Gallo finds his shots within the flow of the offense instead of interrupting it and thus you find that per 100 possessions the Nuggets were 6 points better with Gallo than with Melo.
So what about Beasley? I've begun to suspect that in many ways this season - as long as he's playing for us - as goes Michael Beasley will go the Timberwolves. When he's effectively participating in the offense and passing the ball? Wins over tough teams. When he struggles? Oops's against average to lesser teams. As SnP, Oceanary, TA, PD, and a ton of other people have noted - this team does not another 'star' to become more competitive; it needs competent, consistent play out of the SF and SG spots. Using net PER by position as a shorthand synopsis:
- PG, -1.8 (with Barea being counted as a PG for some reason, posting a +4.9)
- SG, -5.6 (with Rubio being counted as having played 32% of our minutes there, posting a +7.5)
- SF, -12.9 (although playing Lebron and KD does not help this small sample size; Beasley at a -14.7!!)
- PF, +7.7
- C, +4.3 (with Darko posting only a -1.6 but outrebounding and shooting more efficiently than his counterparts)
All we need is mostly average play at the SF position (SG is a different animal right now - Wes needs to benched. No more 'figuring it out', no more 'overthinking'. It's effing basketball - just play already.) Anyways...
This is the list of guys who I think (and it's not a complete list or even an apples to apples set of comparisons for him but more an aggregate guide to what ideal expectations for Beasley and what kind of role he should and could play is) represent his goal for similar production and best case ceiling (that being Shawn Marion).
Key points (in no particular order, and yes I realize that Taj Gibson is a PF):
- mentally adjusting from the attitude of being team's go-to or leading scorer to effective #3 option
- make defense a calling card, not iso dribble dribble long two.
- along that vein, block shots, steal the ball, harass, and keep rebounding
- play within the flow of the offense and keep passing the rock when necessary
- along that vein, be content to use your natural athletic skills - you don't have to be a Superman offensively
- 'shoot' for a USG% of about 20, not 25+.
Believe it or not but Michael Beasley once accounted for nearly 1/2 of his team's blocked shots and 1 out of every 6 of it's steals while at KState. The kid has the tools to continue to be a productive rebounder, a solid passer, and a shot blocker if he chooses too. In trying to figure out what in the hell Adelman is doing by allowing our second to worst player get the second most minutes on the team, I keep returning to two intertwined thoughts:
What if Beasley has been utterly miscast in the NBA as a guy who needs to be a scorer instead of a do-everything guy who happens to score (with Marion being the ideal example for Beasley to shoot for)? And is Adelman giving him rope to see how coachable he is (will he hang himself or run with it), and to see whether or not it's too late to shape Beasley into a different kind of player?
I'll admit that I'm not sure if I believe that this is where Beasley should turn for his development. I do think that there probably is something to the idea that it's time to get over him having been the #2 pick, having been KD's childhood friend, and get over the promise as a scorer that his one season at KState led everyone to believe. It does somehow seem right to me that Beasley could and should play third or even fourth fiddle to Love, Rubio, and Williams. That he is best served (and most helpful) if he can actually play defense, rebound, pass a little, learn to find and shoot only his good shots and not the bad ones, and maybe even block a few more shots - all while Love and Rubio and Williams get the notoriety for scoring more points, for getting more assists, for shooting more efficiently. Beasley as a consistent, average producing, do everything 'glue' SF type would be incredibly useful for this team - something that is well within his capability to do if only he has the attitude, drive, and willingness to change and a coach who can help get him there.
Of course, upgrading the SG position would probably help this team as much or more, but that's an entirely different post/issue. I love Wes, but dude does not belong in this league right now. Beasley I still have a bit more hope for.