Over the past three years, Pat Riley has been christened the don, the godfather, the pimp and the NBA Executive of the Year. His acquisitions of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Shane Battier, while also retaining Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, have brought two championships to Miami and the recognition of being in an elite class of team presidents.
But for the first time since his coup that shocked the world, there are some who are actually questioning Riley's motives following the Heat's offering of a non-guaranteed deal to Michael Beasley. The former first-round pick of Miami's in the 2008 draft is a few weeks removed from being charged with marijuana possession and a release from the Phoenix Suns.
He was signed to a non-guaranteed deal by the Heat, which means he is not yet assured a roster spot. He will have to impress in training camp and the preseason enough to convince the Heat front office to offer him the veteran's minimum. It's still a possibility Miami carries the minimum 13 players on their roster to avoid any increase in luxury tax penalties.
Thus far, Beasley joins Jarvis Varnado, Justin Hamilton and Eric Griffin as players on the Heat roster without a guaranteed deal.
It's inconceivable how Michael Beasley, who averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds as a freshman with Kansas State, has fallen this far out of favor. The Suns, winners of 25 games last year, signed him to a three-year deal only to buy him out with $7 million after one season.
It wasn't always this bad. In fact, Beasley being waived by his third team in his fifth year because of disappointing play and criminal charges was not even a believable thought at the time he was drafted.
Beasley was selected by the Heat second after Derrick Rose was taken first in a memorable 2008 draft class. The Heat already employed a power forward in Udonis Haslem and could have employed a rookie who would have better suited their situation, but they instead took the best available player in Beasley.
His first year earned him All-Rookie First Team honors following averages of 13.9 points and 5.4 boards, while shooting 47 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep. He started 19 games, had a PER of 17.2 (still a career-high) and was the second-highest scorer on a fourth seed.
He still had the look of a raw player with focus issues, but it was believed those would be a problem of the past following the jump he'd make into his sophomore season.
While Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love made their sophomore jumps, Beasley remained relatively the same. He may have actually been worse: his PER dropped by a full point from the previous season, his three-point percentage plummeted to 28 percent and his point and rebound totals nearly matched those of his rookie year.
He'd disappear in a disappointing first-round loss to the Boston Celtics and it was curtains for Beasley's Heat tenure. As a part of the salary dump to open up cap space for James and Bosh, Beasley was sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for two second-round picks.
If he wasn't able to complement Dwyane Wade, what made anybody think he would be able to complement Wade plus two more stars? Beasley would constantly get lost on offense when the ball wasn't in his hands, lose track of his assignments on defense and was an all-around inefficient scorer.
Miami ended up making the correct move choosing to move on with Haslem and Mike Miller. Beasley, meanwhile, dropped a career-high 19.2 points per game in his first year as Minnesota's starting small forward, but fell out of favor quickly as the Wolves would go a different route the next season with Derrick Williams.
Beasley's minutes dropped from 32 to 23, his PER continued to fall (his first season in Minnesota actually featured a lower PER than his final season with Miami), and he signed with the rebuilding Suns the following offseason.
He'd start at small forward for a team that needed all the offense it could get, but was sent to the bench after 20 games. His stats fell to career-lows with such numbers as 10.1 points per game, a field goal percentage of nearly 40 percent, less than four rebounds per game and a career-low PER of 10.8
Pepper in a few possession charges and somehow he's back with the Miami Heat, only three years after being traded and five years after going second in one of the best drafts in NBA history.
The reports of a Beasley-to-Miami move were originally brushed off by local media, possibly because it seemed unbelievable, but the deal was made and Riley was quoted as saying, "Michael had the best years of his career with us. We feel that he can help us."
No more, no less. After years of exemplary work, Riley has no need to explain his actions any further.
It's a low-risk, high-reward move. If Beasley were to make the team, it's extremely unlikely that the 24-year-old, relegated to ninth or tenth-man status at best, would cause a disruption in a veteran-laden locker room.
Unlike his first years on the team, where he was part of a core that consisted of young players like Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook and Dorell Wright, he'll be surrounded by strictly-business, no-nonsense guys like Shane Battier, Ray Allen and LeBron. Veterans motivated to win championships are not going to allow a fringe player to cause any disruptions along their title run.
It's more believable that the veterans would have an influence on the youngster, rather than the other way around. His teammates are aware that he could prove to be an extremely valuable asset because of his versatility, athleticism and youth, and taking him under their wing could prove to be a wise investment.
The only problem that could arise is from James Jones and/or Rashard Lewis. With Mike Miller out of the picture and funds limited, it was believed that Jones and Lewis would compete for the spot in the rotation that was previously occupied by Miller. If Beasley were to join the team, however, that would put a damper on any hopes of Jones or Lewis receiving minutes.
Haslem, who has sacrificed minutes and a starting spot for Beasley before, may end up losing minutes again if the Heat choose to use Beasley as a power forward.
But these are all best-case scenarios for Beasley, who was drawing little interest following his departure from the Suns. It's going to take a complete adjustment in his game and attitude towards the game before he can even earn a spot on the Heat's final roster. The Heat have put a lot of thought into all of their free-agent moves since 2010, Beasley being no different.
The Heat see value in Beasley because there still might be some. Miami has had no money to spend because of the impending luxury tax hit, as well as the looming 2014 offseason, and they've made the most out of $2 million with the signing of Greg Oden and the possibility of signing Beasley.
Beasley may end up being as valuable a signing as Oden. You can't fix a player's body, but you can alter the mindset of a 24-year-old. If this Heat team comprised of future Hall of Famers and champions can't do that with Beasley, then he's never going to find a consistent role on any NBA team.
If he's not going to make it in Miami, he's not going to make it anywhere. The motivation of possibly being a few games away from an early retirement may just prompt Beasley to wake up and get his career in order.
The problem with Beasley's career, and the reason why there are not many proponents of Beasley playing in Miami again, is the lack of focus and commitment to anything. He's a great player that's had his skill set compared to Kevin Durant, but he's never made any sort of progress in his game because he has shown no willingness to become a better player.
When a player signs with the Heat, they're signed for both personal and team motivation. Chris Andersen, for example, wanted to prove he was still a reliable threat, while Allen, Battier and Lewis signed on for the purpose of rings.
Players who sign for team success, not personal success and money, always come out on top. Beasley signed on to a non-guaranteed deal that he actually put forward. It's a good start. It means he wants to make a comeback at any cost.
Nevertheless, he is the same exact player that came out of Kansas State, so consider this signing as the Heat's second drafting of Michael Beasley. It's a fresh start on a roster with strong leaders and voices, a collective focus on a singular goal and a spot in the rotation that bodes less pressure than being the number one or two guy, which is something Beasley clearly does not want to embrace.
Either way, this has made the Heat's offseason, training camp and preseason all the more intriguing.
Funds were low and the free agency class pales in comparison to next year. Although Miami's two biggest signings are mental and physical projects, there's a great deal of upside if they pay off, especially when there's going to be a need for players to replace the soon-departing Ray Allen and Shane Battier.
Riley knows what we all know about Beasley. He's the only one willing to take a chance, just as he did with their starting power forward (Haslem), a solid backup point guard from Cleveland State (Cole) or even the latest fan-favorite (Andersen).
Whether or not he succeeds, however, is purely up to Beasley.
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