When a franchise approaches the NBA draft, it evaluates players based on two traits. The first is how ready they presently are, while the second is how good they could potentially be.
Let Michael Beasley's NBA career serve as a cautionary tale of unfulfilled promise.
The latest chapter in this unraveling story has taken a terrible turn. Shaun Powell of SportsOnEarth.com reports that a source close to the Suns has described Beasley as "toxic":
Suns source: Michael Beasley is "toxic," team in tailspin, could lead to major shakeup.— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) December 10, 2012
This comes after a 2011-12 season in which the T-Wolves failed in their attempt to trade Beasley to the Los Angeles Lakers (via ESPN Los Angeles), a team that wanted nothing to do with the "toxic" forward.
Getting the picture yet?
Chris Broussard of ESPN quickly posted a follow-up. Broussard claims that Suns majority owner Robert Sarver disputed the report that there will be a change in Phoenix, whether you believe that or not:
Sarver on Gentry:"we've got confidence in our coaching staff & we're not considering making changes. It's still early in the season."— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) December 10, 2012
So where did this all begin?
Beasley won the 2008 Big 12 Player of the Year award while attending Kansas State University. He did so with averages of 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.
With his extraordinary athleticism and the art of short-term memory, Beasley overcame character issues to become the second overall draft choice in 2008.
Less than five years later, Beasley is playing for his third NBA franchise. He's never once lived up to his potential, seeing a dip in field-goal percentage in each of his first four seasons.
He's now shooting a career-worst 38.3 percent from the floor with the Phoenix Suns. After putting up 11.5 points in 23.1 minutes per game in 2011-12, he is currently averaging 11.4 in 27.0 minutes in 2012-13.
That's Beasley's version of progression.
No matter how excited Phoenix may have been to acquire his services, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic sheds light on Beasley's falling out with the franchise. Coro reports that head coach Alvin Gentry is considering moving him to the bench.
This comes after Beasley shot 3-of-12 from the floor with no rebounds during a 97-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. On national television.
"More than likely," Gentry said. "Could possibly be."
Not very specific, but it sheds enough light on the situation to move forward. A situation that has in fact led to Beasley's benching.
Let this be a word of caution to all. Don't draft a player based on what could be.
More Than a Stat Sheet
Instead of judging a player by what they're able to do in a box score, how about the way they play the game?
For instance, Beasley averaged 12.4 rebounds per game at Kansas State. After four years in the NBA, Beasley's career average sits at 5.4 per contest.
A direct result of his utilization of athleticism over fundamentals. If you don't box out, you don't get the board.
This is what scouts and general managers must continue to look at in preparation for the 2013 NBA draft. As impressively as statistical standouts may perform with major conference programs, their production won't necessarily translate to the NBA level.
Especially not when their work ethic won't allow it to.
What Is and What Might Be
As we begin to evaluate the prospects of the 2013 NBA draft class, we will once again see one-and-done players who have the "upside" to be great. The question is, how do we define the word that all scouts and fans throw around so loosely?
Upside is not an evaluation of what a player may one day be able to achieve. It is a study of a player's present abilities and how far they can progress with what is already in place.
In other words, don't draft a player because you believe he can develop something that is not yet present. Select them because they've already established a skill that can be perfected.
An approach which was ignored and thus led to Beasley's persistent character issues.
J.A. Adande of ESPN outlined such in 2009, citing the fact that Beasley was the only person who could fix his issues. Considering he has never shown the impetus to do so in the past, why is it that general managers felt he would in the future?
Being handed millions of dollars in spite of his actions seems like the opposite of a deterrent.
No Help from College
In Adande's article previously alluded to, an anonymous general manager offered rather interesting insight. Said GM stated that a player's college experience does very little to help or hurt the maturation process.
After all, most Division I collegiate athletes focus more on athletics than scholarly activities. Hence the ridiculous process of leaving behind education for life as a professional after just one season.
Something that works out for the top stars but few else.
"I think people either decide to change or not," an NBA general manager said. "It's a very personal process. I don't think school helps or hinders that."
Apparently, responsibility doesn't help, either.
It's time we allow Michael Beasley to serve as an example of drafting failure. If not, label Beasley as the warning for coaches who select players with character issues.
If not Beasley, how about Royce White (via Bleacher Report)? The trend never ends.