In July of 2012, the Phoenix Suns continued the process of giving their roster a facelift and signed enigmatic forward Michael Beasley to a three-year, $18 million contract.
The move was met with mixed reaction. Many (myself included) applauded the deal, as the Suns needed a star player. While Beasley's four-year NBA résumé proved that he was not a star, he at least still possessed the potential to be that type of player.
Others thought the deal was preposterous and felt giving $18 million to a player with well-chronicled focus and drug issues was far from the answer the Suns needed. If he's got so much potential, why had both the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves already given up on him before his first pro contract had expired?
Well, we're 36 games into the "Beasley era" in Phoenix, and so far, the move has been an unmitigated disaster. Beasley is averaging under 10 points and just 3.6 rebounds per game -- both by far the lowest totals in his career.
But more importantly, Beasley has completely fallen out of head coach Alvin Gentry's rotation. The former Kansas State All-American has played a total of 74 minutes in the Suns' last ten games, in which they've posted a 1-9 record. He's showed up in the box score as a "DNP - Coach's Decision" four times since December 23.
I'll fully admit that I'm not privy to the daily goings-on in the Suns' locker room. For all I know, Beasley could be a total head-case. Hey, it's been suggested by some. In December, longtime NBA writer Shaun Powell cited a Suns source in labeling Beasley as "toxic".
Be that as it may, Beasley is still on the Suns roster and is still the most talented player on the team. Which begs the question, why is he not playing? Rumored toxicity aside, it's not like putting Beasley on the bench and making an example out of him is leading to Suns' wins. In games where Beasley has scored 15 points or more, the Suns are 4-3. When Beasley has played 10 or fewer minutes or failed to get on the court, they're 2-6.
Let me reiterate, Beasley is the most talented player on the team. Has he played well this year? Absolutely not. Neither has a good portion of the roster. If you don't believe that, just look at the Pacific Division standings. The management team of general manager Lance Blanks and president of basketball operations Lon Babby knew they were taking a risk on a player whom many had given up on. They believed that they were the organization to finally untap Beasley's intriguing potential.
To pay Beasley pretty handsomely and then not play him doesn't make sense, especially for a team that craves a consistent go-to scorer. Beasley has ten 30-point games in his career -- the second-highest total on the Suns team. Jermaine O'Neal has 42, but his last one came when George W. Bush was still calling the White House home and Justin Bieber was still posting his homemade videos on YouTube. Beasley's really the only Suns player with the potential to become a go-to scorer in this league
I know what you're thinking. "Vince, when Beasley played, he wasn't consistent."
I can't fight that. Just as you can't fight the fact that it's really hard for a player to help his team while he's wearing sweats on the bench.
Beasley, even considering the frustrating nature of his play to this point, should be given the opportunity to play his way out of the funk that landed him on the bench in the first place.
I mean, what do they have to lose?