The Beasley Question
Beasley ranked 10th in the NBA in usage rate in 2010-2011 despite ranking 126th in offensive efficiency.
One of the side-effects of Miami’s dramatic roster shuffle before the 2010-2011 season was the need to offload Michael Beasley to clear up cap space. Minnesota was the apparent benefactor of that need picking up the former #2 overall pick for a 2011 second round pick and a swap of future first round picks. In Beasley Minnesota acquired a young scorer who averaged 14.3 PPG in his first two seasons after a dominant Freshman season at Kansas State. Playing primarily as a face up PF he scored 26.2 PPG and pulled down an impressive 12.4 rebounds per game. He notched 28 double-doubles as a Freshman breaking the NCAA freshman record of 22 set by Carmelo Anthony.
He was more than just a volume scorer in college: he shot .537 from the floor and .395 from three seemingly indicating that he had the potential to be an efficient NBA scorer from either forward position with plus range. It was on the strength of those numbers that Miami made him the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft with the intent of plugging him in as a key cog of a playoff team. Just two seasons later they were willing to move him for minimal return in order to clear the cap space needed to add Mike Miller.
While Beasley has struggled at times with concentration and public criticism of his fondness for weed his fall from favor has had more to do with lack of production.
After playing most of his college career at PF Miami hoped his range in college would make him a match-up nightmare at SF, but slow feet and an inconsistent release have contributed to a steady decline in his efficiency numbers. Let’s compare his first three seasons as a pro with those of fellow Timberwolves tweener forward Kevin Love.
Year-By-Year PER Ratings
YEAR BEASLEY LOVE
2008-2009 17.28 18.39
2009-2010 16.16 20.72
2010-2011 15.54 24.39
Despite his shortcomings Love has grown more efficient with each season while Beasley’s offensive efficiency has dropped with each passing year. Why?
Making the transition from college to the pros has exposed Beasley’s slow feet. He’s not quite lead-footed, but he lacks the explosiveness to consistently drive past or stay in front of opposing SFs. When played at PF he becomes a much more effective player both offensively and defensively.
POS PER OPP PER NET
SF 13.1 18.4 -6.2
PF 18.4 17.7 +0.7
Played at PF Beasley becomes a better defender and a significantly better offensive player. Playing at SF exposes his lack of athleticism and forces him to settle for mid-to-long range jumpers. Already an extreme jump shooter in Miami (70% of his shots in Miami were jumpers) fewer minutes at PF in Minnesota have made this divide even more extreme: last season 80% of Beasley’s shot attempts were jumpers.
That extreme jump shooting rate contributed to his inability to get to the line. He drew fouls on only 10.6% of shot attempts last season.
Overall Beasley is a face up PF with some driving ability who doesn’t have the athleticism of the handle for SF.
As hinted at before not all of Beasley’s struggles have been his fault, much of his inefficiency is due to his misuse by both franchises to employ him in his young career. In addition to being forced to play out of position Beasley was also forced to be Minnesota’s go to offensive option. No Timberwolf took more shots with 3 seconds or less left on the shot clock than Beasley, shot attempts he converted at a .418 eFG%, .056 points lower than his overall eFG%.
There are two elements from the outside that are vital to Beasley’s success in the NBA:
- A decreased usage rate implying better shot selection and less leaning on Beasley for low percentage conversions
- A shift back to PF where he is far more effective on both sides of the ball.
Moving Beasley back to PF will also mean no longer relying on him to do as much ball handling which is important considering his poor handle and mediocre passing skills. That alone will impact both his and Minnesota’s numbers significantly. It also may be time to consider using Beasley in primarily a reserve roll until he can begin to earn his minutes at the 4 rather than sticking him at the 3 in a misguided effort to get as much talent on the floor as possible.
Additionally Beasley must learn to drive more and finish at the rim. That will improve his weak foul rate (10.6%) and give him more high percentage looks. Some of this will come from shifting him to the 4, but some of it will also have to come from Beasley learning to drive to his right. So far as a pro he’s been very left-hand dominant and though his initial step shows great explosiveness he doesn’t have the athleticism to blow by defenders consistently and can’t force them to stay close due to his poor jump shooting percentage. Teams basically dare Beasley to put up long twos and so far as a Timberwolf he’s obliged. According to Hollinger Beasley put up 590 long twos last year.
Beasley is doubtlessly a talented player whose work-ethic issues have been oversold. The problem is that so far as a pro he’s played for two coaches who have hamstrung him by playing him out of position and has been unable to flourish as anything but a volume scorer as a result. If Minnesota is willing to cut his minutes and shift him back to PF (with Johnson/Webster moving back to SF and Love playing more minutes at C) he still has a chance to develop into an effective scorer.
If they continue to use him at SF it’s unlikely Minnesota will extend a qualifying offer to him next season.