It's not very often I have the thought that my eyes are deceiving me.
When I look at this chart comparing Michael Beasley's freshman year at Kansas State to Kevin Durant's at Texas, I can't come up with a reasonable explanation.
|Player||Pts. per 40 min.||Rebounds per game||Assists per game||True shooting %||Off. Rating|
Durant was with the Longhorns for the 2007-08 season, Beasley played the following season at Kansas State. Both players participated in the same conference, with similar competition, at a similar age. The current Suns forward was a better player in college than Durant, who is now the second-best player in the NBA.
Taking it a step further, since 1997-1998, according to the college basketball section at sports-reference.com, "B-Easy" is the only player to average at least 25 points, 12 rebounds and shoot over 50 percent from the field at that level. He accomplished this at the age of 18.
Fast forward to the present. Instead of growing into the superstar player his college performance suggested he would, Beasley is coming off the worst season of his professional career.
There are extra-curricular, off-court issues that always need to be brought up when discussing the former number-two overall pick. I can only examine what is tangible. I've dealt with Beasley on a few of occasions, and he seemed like a nice person. Who he actually is, I have no idea -- so that's not something I'm really interested in.
What does bother me is why a player who showed ability at the NCAA level is regressing as he hits a stage when he should be starting to flourish.
Is this something the new Suns regime featuring head coach Jeff Hornacek and general manager Ryan McDonough can find a way to salvage?
There is no way around it, Beasley was used incorrectly last season by Alvin Gentry and Lindsey Hunter. The Kansas State product should be played at power forward and not small forward.
The chart from 82games.com shows in the minutes Beasley spent at the small forward spot, the Suns were outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions compared to only 4.7 when he was at the power forward spot.
This is a pattern that has gone on for the majority of his career:
Over the course of his career, Beasley's teams are a net negative of about seven when he is playing SF and only two when he plays PF. Beasley's PER is also between three and four points higher when he plays the four.
Playing Beasley up a position makes the game easier for him because it creates more spacing and allows more open lanes to drive through, while he is also being guarded by slower-footed defenders.
The position isn't the only aspect with Beasley that needs to be fixed -- it's about more than that. His shot selection and the way he attacks the game offensively both need to be improved.
The easiest part to address is the type of jump shots he takes. During Beasley's career, according to NBA.com, he has taken 1,938 shots from mid-range and hit at a 40 percent clip, 165 corner threes at 39 percent and 422 above the break threes at 33 percent. He's a .345 three-point shooter in his career.
If he's going to be settling for jumpers and not attacking the rim, Beasley needs to take significantly less mid-range jumpers and more three-pointers -- he's giving away points.
Every 10 shots Beasley takes from mid-range are worth eight points.
Every 10 shots Beasley takes from corner three are worth 11.7 points, and every 10 shots he takes from above the break three are worth 9.9 points.
Every 10 shots Beasley takes anywhere from three-point range are worth 10.2 points. The fact that Beasley has taken almost three times as many mid-range jumpers than three-pointers during his five seasons in the NBA can be described as no other way but horrendous.
The other aspect Beasley needs to improve upon is his habit of catching the ball and waiting. Players like LeBron James and Chris Paul can take their time and prod because along with their ability to score, they have incredible court vision to set up others. They are finishers and creators.
Beasley is just a finisher; he doesn't have the ability to observe the floor and set up his teammates. When he waits, he allows the opposing defense to lock on him and close off lanes to drive through. Also, he won't see the available passes. Beasley is at his best when he catches and makes a quick, decisive move.
Michael Beasley will most likely never live up to the potential he showed in college and even early on in the NBA.
That being said, there is no question he can be used in a way that he won't be nearly as detrimental to the Suns as he was last year. If Beasley is willing to be coached and accept a role, there are ways for him to have a positive impact for Phoenix.