Phoenix Suns Must Turn Michael Beasley into Trade Chip

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 27, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 21:  Michael Beasley #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Portland Trail Blazers at US Airways Center on November 21, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers 114-87.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There wasn't a more fitting move for a Phoenix Suns franchise shrouded in question marks after the offseason departure of Steve Nash than bringing in one of the league's greatest enigmas, Michael Beasley.

The second overall pick of the 2008 draft, Beasley has wrapped bone-headed decisions and lapses of focus around brief glimpses of his potential. He doesn't seem to grasp the talent that he's been gifted, or at least doesn't understand defensive and offensive sets well enough to use those talents within a team setting.

Given his talent level, the three-year, $18 million contract he signed with Phoenix this summer seemed a near bargain. But considering how often—or rather how rarely—he's played up to his talents, it seemed like a Charles Barkley-esque $18 million roll of the dice.

Perhaps Phoenix assumed their ability to resurrect the careers of oft-injured NBA veterans would extend to helping Beasley rediscover the abilities that earned him an early draft choice in the first place. If the season's first 14 games are any indication, however, then the Suns gambled on Beasley and lost big time.

His peripheral statistics (12.4 points and 4.6 rebounds) might not appear worthy of bust discussions. But with his field-goal percentage plummeting to a career-worst 37.4 percent—nearly an eight-point drop from his career average of 45.1—his days in Phoenix may already be numbered.

Coming out of Kansas State, Beasley was said to be a matchup nightmare. In reality, though, he's been a coach's nightmare in trying to find someone that he can match up with on the defensive end.

He has the physical tools to guard either forward position, but his lackadaisical defensive approach doesn't cut it in a league as fast as today's NBA. 

When he checks out defensively on the perimeter, slashing small forwards sneak to the basket for easy buckets. When he's distracted on the interior, he gives up valuable post position.

In terms of active Suns players, he's the third-highest paid player on the team. So it's disheartening, at the very least, that coach Alvin Gentry (who's contract is up after the 2012-13 season) can ill afford to keep Beasley on the floor during crunch time, as Fox Sports Arizona's Randy Hill pointed out.

Look, it's one thing if he is hurting his club by trying to do too much. But it's an entirely different beast if a four-plus year NBA veteran has yet to learn the importance of paying attention to details.

If Beasley has any complaint with the criticism that he's taken, it would be that he may be playing out of position. With basketball's shift toward hybrid (stretch) power forwards, he seems most capable of nearing his potential at the four spot.

But if the Suns feel that Beasley's basketball future rests in that position, then they have to do everything in their power to find a willing trade partner. Luis Scola's already the power forward of the present (and will be for the near future thanks to his own three-year contract).

And Markieff Morris is clearly the power forward of the future.

Beasley's contract won't be easy to move, especially considering he's playing for his third team in nearly as many seasons. But it shouldn't prove impossible given the Suns' ability to absorb some money in any potential trade.

Phoenix will have to find a franchise who isn't determined to win this year and has the cap space to withstand Beasley's deal. Perhaps a younger team like Toronto, Cleveland or Detroit could convince themselves that they would be the organization that solves the enigma that is Michael Beasley.

It's too early in the season for any franchise to press the reset button, but moving Beasley wouldn't present a dramatic shift away from what Phoenix is trying to accomplish.

If anything, it would actually bring them that much closer to discovering success after Nash.