What Michael Beasley Must Do to Get His NBA Career Back on Track

Michael Pina@@MichaelVPinaFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2013

DENVER, CO - APRIL 17:  Michael Beasley #0 of the Phoenix Suns controls the ball against Evan Fournier #94 of the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on April 17, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

"I realize 10 minutes of feeling good is not really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy...so I'm confident to say that that part of my career, that part of my life, is over and won't be coming back."

-Michael Beasley at his introductory news conference with the Phoenix Suns early last year

There was once an actual time in recent history when knowledgeable fans of basketball wondered if the Chicago Bulls would ultimately regret selecting Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley in the 2008 NBA Draft. 

Those people were obviously wrong, but only because they weren't able to see the future. Coming out of Kansas State University, Beasley was as impressive an offensive prodigy as amateur basketball had ever seen, averaging 26.2 points (on 53.2 percent shooting) and 12.4 rebounds per game in his freshman season.


He then entered the league with numerous flaws, but nearly all of them were related to poor decision-making (on and off the court) and issues with effort. He was tantalizing because he was young and filled with talent, but played like he didn't know or care.

Today, after a recent arrest for marijuana possession and Phoenix's decision to trade Caron Butler to Milwaukee—foreshadowing a possible buyout of Beasley's contract—it appears the player many believed to be good enough to thrive as an All-Star for the next decade might be out of the league before his 25th birthday.

Beasley's already played for three teams, in three cities spread across the United States. There's no guarantee he ever signs with a fourth.

If miracles do happen, and another NBA team thinks signing Michael Beasley is worth the time, money and roster space, what does he need to do in order to turn things around? First and foremost—this answer is so evident it borders on satirical—he needs to stop smoking marijuana.

While a member of the Heat, Beasley twice violated the league's drug policy. In 2009 he checked into a treatment facility over the drug. After being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was pulled over in a Minneapolis suburb and ticketed with marijuana possession. There's an obvious, ongoing problem here, and it's had a noticeably negative effect on Beasley's professional and personal growth.

In his rookie season, Beasley's PER was 17.2. Every year since it's declined, which is unusual. (Last year it was 10.8.) Here are some more basketball-specific ways Beasley can turn his career around, if ever given the chance to do so. 

Improve Defense

Beasley's overall work on the defensive end isn't the absolute worst thing NBA basketball has ever seen, but time after time he makes noticeable mental lapses that can't be accepted.

After watching his work against spot-up shots and in isolation, it became apparent that on numerous defensive possessions that immediately followed a Beasley basket, his energy was non-existent.

This might mean nothing other than "Michael Beasley only cares about offense," but 1) that wouldn't exactly be new news, and 2) it's a problem he can easily fix.

Here's an example from a defensive possession where Beasley didn't just score (Shannon Brown did); the effort is still invisible.


Become A Three-Point Specialist

Beasley's a career 34.5 percent shooter from deep, including his rookie season, when he made 40.7 percent of his 81 attempts.

It's uncertain whether Beasley is capable of developing his stroke from beyond the three-point line to the point where he could consistently stretch defenses and become somewhat of a "specialist," but it definitely couldn't hurt for him to try.

The three-point shot is increasingly essential for successful NBA offenses, and if Beasley wants to earn himself a spot on someone's roster, proving he can knock down wide open threes isn't the worst way do so. 


Eliminate Shots That Make Little Sense

Beasley has talent, but unfortunately he's honed it into areas of basketball that are neither efficient nor worthwhile. According to Synergy Sports, 19 percent of Beasley's offensive possessions come in isolation, where last season he shot just 39.4 percent. That's not good. 

Here's a shot against the Houston Rockets last season that, with all we know about NBA offense today, should be a thing of the past. Phoenix makes one pass in this possession, and it's to Beasley at the top of the three-point line. He shoots (and misses) a straight away jumper with plenty of time left on the shot clock. 

In this particular play, one could argue Beasley decided to take the quick shot in relation to where the game clock was at, but that would be giving him the benefit of the doubt, which he clearly doesn't deserve. There are dozens of other examples from last season alone that run parallel to this play.

He actually has a decent post game, and last season he wisely broke it out whenever presented with a mismatch granted in transition.

This isn't an option every time down the floor, but if Beasley can establish the mentality of working inside out, he'll be much better off improving his efficiency.

He averaged 1.7 free-throw attempts per game last year, which, once again, is unacceptable for someone who touches the ball as much as he does.

Here he is bullying Jarrett Jack for an efficient look. Every single time he's presented with an opportunity like this he needs to take advantage.

Beasley is eight months younger than Kevin Durant. If he can quit marijuana use for good, clean up his effort-related issues (which could easily be related to the former problem) and find himself in a reduced role playing for an organization that values winning and a positive culture, time is on his side.

But, unfortunately for him, the number of opportunities Beasley has left to turn things around might already be zero.


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