Numerous labels—not all of them favorable—have been given to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley throughout his four-year NBA career. Here's yet another that applies as well: potential free-agent steal.
After excelling in a backup role this year, Beasley has his eye on greener pastures filled with more playing time in 2012-13.
"The reserve role is what the coach wanted, but that's not really my plans for the future," said Beasley last week. "I see myself as a starter. Now I have to prove it."
As the season comes to a close, it appears as though Beasley's plans for the future won't involve the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." The Timberwolves are, in fact, capable of re-signing him without going over the salary cap. But if the team intends on making a huge splash in free agency, Beasley's $8.17 million qualifying offer may be too large of a pill to swallow.
The 6'9", 235-pound Beasley is talented enough to start immediately for more than a handful of NBA teams, and his per 36-minute averages (17.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG) should make talent evaluators around the league take notice. With that in mind, let's take a look at where Beasley could land next season.
There were rumors earlier this year of Beasley being sent to the Boston Celtics at the trade deadline, but no deal ever came to fruition. With a roster overhaul almost certain in Beantown, Beasley would be a decent fit on a team built around emerging point guard Rajon Rondo.
Beasley could easily slide into the 4 spot for Boston whether or not GM Danny Ainge chooses to re-sign Kevin Garnett this summer.
A Rondo-Pierce-Beasley trio should theoretically keep the Celtics at the head of the class in the Atlantic Division, and the team would still have plenty of cap space they could use to land an elite-level free agent.
Michael Beasley could, in fact, be the first free-agent acquisition for the newly-christened Brooklyn Nets. The Nets, after all, inquired about Beasley's services back in March, but wound up making a deal for Portland's Gerald Wallace instead.
At only 23 years old, Beasley would be a perfect candidate for the Nets' long-term plans, and his ability to stretch the floor would give Wallace more freedom to attack the basket (assuming that the latter exercises his $11.4 million option for next year).
If and when Deron Williams walks, the Nets will basically be rebuilding their roster from scratch. And if that's the case, a versatile player like Beasley is a low-risk addition that could potentially result in a high reward for Brooklyn.
The Charlotte Bobcats might be the worst team in the history of the NBA, and considering the fact that they'll have cap space to work with in the offseason, they would be wise to pursue Beasley once the free agency period begins.
When Beasley was a regular starter for the Timberwolves in 2010-11, he averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. After looking at the Bobcats' roster, it's safe to say that no Charlotte player could come close to matching those numbers over the course of a season.
Kemba Walker and Charlotte's lottery pick this June will obviously be the cornerstones that the Bobcats franchise builds around, but Beasley could be a very talented third option for a team that is currently the laughingstock of the league.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are another team flush with cap money that would do well to contact Michael Beasley's agent this summer.
With all due respect to current Cavs starting small forward Alonzo Gee (who is more of a guard), Beasley is a much better fit at the 3 position, and his skill set would complement both Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson rather nicely.
Lottery results notwithstanding, the Cavs are slated to select fifth in the June 28th draft, and the team could use that pick on one of the better shooting guards who chose to test the NBA waters this year.
A theoretical starting lineup of Irving, Bradley Beal, Beasley, Thompson and Anderson Varejao might be enough to vault Cleveland into playoff contention as early as next season.
If Beasley is willing to take a trip north of the border, he may find that the city of Toronto would welcome him with open arms. The Raptors have a decent nucleus of DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, but aside from DeRozan, Toronto lacks any sort of consistent wing scoring.
Aside from his proficiency from beyond the arc, Beasley—who is an average rebounder for his size—would also give Toronto some much-needed help on the boards. And while the Raptors may not be the optimal destination if Beasley wants to hook up with a winner, he would have ample opportunity to showcase his myriad talents.