Why Michael Beasley Is the Perfect Free-Agent Gamble for Miami Heat

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Why Michael Beasley Is the Perfect Free-Agent Gamble for Miami Heat
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There is such a thing as employing too many NBA draft busts...unless you're the Miami Heat.

The Heatles are already taking a shot on Greg Oden, and now Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski has them pegged as a suitor for free-agent forward Michael Beasley:

The two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat are considering the possibility of bringing back troubled free-agent forward Michael Beasley, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Several of the Heat's key veteran players are supportive of the signing of Beasley, and he has a strong interest in returning to the franchise responsible for taking him with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, sources told Yahoo.

No offer has been made and no deal is considered imminent, sources said.

Beasley was drafted by the Heat second overall in 2008, and spent two seasons with the team before he was shipped off to the Minnesota Timberwolves in preparation for LeBron James and Chris Bosh's arrivals.

After two years in Minny, he signed a three-year deal with the Phoenix Suns prior to the 2012-13 season. Following an arrest for possession of marijuana (again) the Suns released Beasley, leaving him stranded on his own island for what seems like the umpteenth time. 

All we know about Beasley suggests that signing him is a bad move. Not just for the Heat, for everyone. He's a public-relations nightmare. Phoenix provided him with counseling and a life coach, and he still couldn't stay out of trouble. 

If he managed to make waves in Arizona, where lawn gnomes typically cause more trouble than residents, how the hell is he supposed to survive another stint in South Beach? Most teams would run.

Pat Riley and the Heat aren't most teams, though. They care, but not like others. Their roster allows them to take these risks without breaking a sweat and in this case, the bank. And it allows them to make such gambles without compromising the quest for a third straight championship they're about to embark on.

 

Cheap Talent is Hard to Find

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami hasn't had any real money to spend since 2010. Its free-agency excursions have consisted of convincing mid-level talent to sign at a discount (see Ray Allen and Shane Battier).

This is the first summer that the Heat haven't been able to land that guy. In 2010 it was Mike Miller (sort of), in 2011 it was Battier and last summer it was Allen. This year they've actually had to scale back their spending.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Beasley will come cheap.

Not only haven't the Heat signed a difference maker to a modest contract—no, Oden does not count—they amnestied the postseason hero himself, Mr. Miller. Faced with a more punitive luxury tax and set to divvy up nearly $57 million between LeBron, Bosh and Dwyane Wade, there was no wooing an Allen or Battier.

There was only the return of Chris Andersen, signing Oden and the departure of Miller.

Beasley can be that signing. That affordable, yet impact signing. No team in their right mind is going to offer him (much) more than a minimum salary. Armed with the knowledge of his off-court lifestyle, organizations won't want to pay big money for a potential headache. 

The likelihood of Beasley actually emerging as the next Miller or even Battier are slim, but the cost is too insignificant to ignore. Finally forced to sift through free agency's leftover and unwanted piles of talent, Beasley's ceiling exceeds that of anyone the Heat could have afforded in the first place.

Scroungers can't be choosers. Remember that. 

 

There's Actual Upside

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It's not all bad when it comes to Beasley, just mostly.

Phoenix handed Beasley a three-year deal, and he thanked the Suns by spitting in their face. Forget the arrests and apparent drug use, he responded by averaging a career-low 10.1 points per game on a career-worst 40.5 percent shooting. Gratuity at its not-so finest.

But Miami isn't Phoenix. The Heat aren't the Suns. They don't need Beasley to be a savior or even come close to broaching his No. 2 draft status.

Unapologetic gunners who shoot 40.5 percent aren't in demand when you're searching for a building block. And that's exactly what the Heat don't need. Rather, they need an offensive swingman to come in and provide instant offense off the bench. That's pretty much been Beasley's job description the past two years in Minnesota and Phoenix.

Beasley can score. In a hurry.

The problem was, the Timberwolves and Suns expected more. Between 2008 and 2010, the Heat expected more too. Unlike the Suns, Timberwolves and previous version of themselves, the Heat don't need that anymore. Quite simply, they need Beasley to be Beasley—sans the rampant theatrics.

Even in the midst of his worst season ever Beasley still scored. His 10.1 points came in just under 21 minutes of action. That's 17.6 points per 36 minutes, more than enough production from someone who figures to be a ninth or 10th man at best. Not to mention it's more than enough bang for any bucks the Heat will be spending.

Think of it like this:

Who's This (per 36 minutes)?
Player PTS REBS ASTS FG% 2013-14 Salary
Player X 17.6 6.6 2.6 40.5 TBD
Player Y 19.4 3.0 3.3 40.8 $13.2 million
Player Z 17.4 3.1 6.5 39.9 $7.7 million

Salary info via hoopsworld.com.

Player X is a gimme—Beasley. Given what he can do, what his salary will inevitably be (minimum) and what Player Y and Z are making, who would you go with if you're the Heat, not knowing who the other two are?

Exactly. 

For what it's worth, Player Y is Ben Gordon and Player Z Brandon Jennings. Gordon is overpaid, and has been for years. Jennings is valued for more than just his shooting as a starting point guard, though don't tell him that. Beasley put up per-36 minute numbers that rivaled each last season and was slated to earn much less anyway. He's not incapable. 

Look at how Beasley matched up per 36 minutes against J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks, another troubled scorer who happened to win Sixth Man of the Year last season:

Via infogr.am.

Their numbers aren't that different. Beasley has shown he can score under any circumstances, and prior to 2012-13, his shooting wasn't as abysmal.

Beasley's career shot chart (via NBA.com).

In fact, for his career he's averaging 19.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. Only nine other other active players have matched at least 19 and seven per 36 minutes through the first five (or less) years of their career. And I give you their names only because the list is rather impressive: DeMarcus Cousins, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, Antawn Jamison, Brook Lopez, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki and Amar'e Stoudemire.

On a team like the Heat, whose rotation inside the first seven or eight is basically set in stone, Beasley isn't going to be the next Love. Or Nowitzki. But he could be a Jamison, valued for his scoring but not necessarily his efficiency. Treasured for his rebounding, but not his defense. 

It could happen. In Miami, it could happen. 

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo
Oden is a good fit for Miami much in the same way that Beasley is.

Why was Oden such a good fit for the Heat? Because he's big? Well yes, but also because he's free from the pressures of being drafted first overall. Gone are the days he's supposed to start and develop into a double-double machine. I'm certain there's a part of the Heat that isn't even sure if he'll play at all, and they signed him anyway.

Diminished expectations are rarely a good thing, and in the scope of a "star's" future that's still true. For the Heat and for a player desperately in need of redefining his skill set not as a star, but viable contributor, it's fine.

Free from that moment five years ago when David Stern called his name, Beasley can start becoming the player he needs to be, not the one he was supposed to be.

In him, there's still a player who shot at least 45 percent in each of his first three seasons, and never shot below 44.5 percent until last year. A player who notched 19.2 points per game in 2010-11.

A player who can sign with Miami, average 10 (or fewer) points and not be considered a failure.

 

That LeBron James Guy

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

LeBron needs someone new to yell at.

Watching him dig into Mario Chalmers for taking an ill-advised shot, making one too many passes or blowing a defensive assignment is great. Seeing him channel his ferocious mentoring methods into the embattled Beasley would be even better.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport
How would Beasley fare under LeBron?

Although Beasley isn't a victim, he's not the beneficiary of effective instruction either. It's difficult to learn from Wade when he thinks you're an obstacle, someone standing in the way of a superteam's formation. He wasn't going to be a part of Miami's future then. Not with LeBron hitting the free-agent market the summer after Beasley's sophomore season.

Nothing was especially wrong with the Suns or Timberwolves, but who was he to look toward for guidance? Neither team had that polarizing, on-court figure who could put Beasley in his place. Those two were rebuilding themselves.

Beasley would be joining a championship team in the Heat, an outfit with a concrete chain of command: LeBron over everyone else. That's it; it's that simple.

Miami is LeBron's team, even before it's Wade's. He took it upon himself to carry the Heat to a second consecutive title last year, winning his fourth MVP in the process. The Beas has never played next to someone like that, someone so good not even his teammates can believe it.

How could Michael Beasley help the Heat?

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Just being around that should be a valuable learning experience. Witnessing firsthand how hard greatness works and how it lives could open Beasley's eyes. This could change things for the better for Beasley (and Miami's bench).

Only if LeBron is prepared to undertake such a task, of course. Which he is. He's LeBron. Woj wrote that several "key veteran players are supportive" of Beasley's signing. That's LeBron. Everything the Heat do is LeBron, so we must assume he's a part of that group.

And if he's already aboard the Beasley bandwagon, then the troubled 24-year-old will find himself in the first win-win (literally) situation of his checkered career.

 

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