Saturday, July 21, 2012

Michael Beasley is Finally NBA-Ready


When Michael Beasley was selected by the Miami Heat with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, there were nothing but high hopes and praises for the 19 year old phenom.  In 2007, Beasley was ranked as the #1 high school player in the nation, but surprised many of his suitors by electing to attend Kansas State.
 
Nevertheless in his freshman year at K-State, Beasley emerged as arguably the most dominant player in the country.  His 12.4 rebounds per game led the NCAA , and his 26.2 points per game ranked third in the nation.  He entered the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, and the only player who was selected before Beasley was Derrick Rose, the 2010-2011 NBA MVP.

Even though the Heat are doing just fine without Beasley nowadays, one has to wonder what could’ve happened if they had elected to pass on him.  The next three picks after him were O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love, while Roy Hibbert went 17th in the draft.  But while legitimate stars such as Westbrook and Love were out making the All-NBA team, Beasley was failing to improve.  Miami dealt him to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a mere second-round pick in order to clear up cap space shortly after LeBron's infamous Decision to take his talents to South Beach.  Furthermore, this past season Beasley was even stripped of his starting role as a member of the T-Wolves.  His NBA career has been plagued by off-the-court issues, and through four seasons, he has not proven to be much more than just another guy with a lot potential who is simply not living up to that potential.

Read more after the jump

Statistically speaking, Beasley's best season came during his first year in Minnesota when he averaged 19.2 points per game.  However, before the start of last season, T-Wolves’ fans naturally were alarmed when Beasley claimed that his mediocre 78 rating in NBA 2K12 was "higher than [he] thought."  This is a guy who should be striving for excellence.  The same guy who shot nearly 54% from the field in college, and broke Carmelo Anthony’s freshman NCAA double-double record.  The same guy who had once been ranked as the best high school player in the nation.

Instead he was happy with a 78 rating, content with being average, and entirely apathetic towards the frequent fines and marijuana charges that had come to define his NBA career.  Coming off his worst season yet, where he averaged just 11.5 points per game, there was unsurprisingly a lack of widespread demand for Beasley this offseason… except from the Phoenix Suns.  

The Suns are looking to rebuild in the post-Steve Nash era, and acquiring Beasley was allegedly their top priority this offseason.  Beasley understands he is lucky that any team would still have faith in him, but after signing a three-year $18 million deal, I too have faith that Beasley will turn the corner and start to emerge as the player he was once expected to become. 

While his professional career has been marred by immaturity, Beasley's comments in yesterday's press conference while being introduced as the newest member of the Suns were arguably the best things that have come from Beasley since the 2008 draft.  The same guy who had once dodged and denied all accusations as a 19-year-old member of the Heat finally acknowledged his past issues, promising to reward Phoenix for keeping the faith.

"I realize 10 minutes of feeling good is not really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy, so I'm confident to say that part of my career, that part of my life, is over and won't be coming back."

This is a great sign of things to come from Beasley.  He has previously held himself back from reaching his potential, but with his new team, new workout regimen, and new mentality, I believe his sharp shooting and quick moves in the paint will allow him to once again become a dominant forward and household name.  Beasley does have a respectable .455 career field goal percentage, and his quickness for his size and ability to finish effectively with either hand makes him difficult to guard for many less-agile forwards. 

Again he is still only 23-years-old, the same age as Jeremy Lin, and it is clear that Beasley’s abilities, work ethic, confidence, and maturity all would have benefited from two or three more years at K-State.  However I believe that sitting on the couch while watching his childhood friend Kevin Durant compete in the NBA Finals may have sparked a sobering realization within Beasley.  By finding a new home in Phoenix, Beasley finally seems committed and NBA-ready, and finally has something other than a joint to feel good about. 

“It makes me feel good that someone actually believes in me and someone is willing to give me a chance."   
Next season, Beasley will be out to prove his worth, and with hard work he has the opportunity to become the new face of the Suns’ franchise as they enter a rebuilding stage.   

He will need to develop a rapport with Nash’s replacement Goran Dragic, fellow newly acquired forward Luis Scola, and rapidly improving center Marcin Gortat, but if he works as hard as he claims he will, my prediction is that it won’t be long before Beasley becomes the go-to-guy in Phoenix.

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