In terms of pure talent, the Miami Heat have one of the top rosters in the league. From top to bottom, each spot is filled by someone who brings a special skill to the team. From LeBron James to James Jones, there is a certain something that makes keeping them around worthwhile. While the issue is often blurred, and despite all the trouble he has caused, Michael Beasley has hung around in the league the past few seasons after a number of judgement miscues. And he has hung around long enough to find himself on the roster of the reigning NBA champions.
It seems like long ago when Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley were the top two respective draft picks in 2008. The last few seasons have seen the former take his Chicago Bulls to the top of the league, in addition to taking home a few personal accolades of his own including an MVP for his stellar 2009-10 campaign, as well as All-NBA and All-Star honors.
Joining Rose in that category of established players from his draft class are Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez and even the 34th overall pick Mario Chalmers, who has two NBA championship rings with the Miami Heat. The only thing Beasley shares with any of them is a selection to the All-Rookie teams for the 2008-09 season.
Any number of draft picks have been blown by teams in the past, as injuries and adjusting to the NBA standard of play can derail the careers of young players. As seen with current Heat center Greg Oden, the Portland Trail Blazers were left without their prized rookie as he succumbed to knee injury after knee injury. One could question just how much patience the team gave to allow Oden to fully heal, leading to further injury; however, the outcome remains the same.
For the Heat, it came down to the basic issue of maturity and attitude of their rookie in Beasley. His involvement in a marijuana-related incident at the NBA's Rookie Transition Program has been well-documented, and Beasley was doomed to fail in the public eye before his rookie season had even begun. That isn't to say his play on the court wasn't superb, but just as Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is scrutinized for his persona each year, so too was Beasley.
While he can blame no one but himself, the transition to the NBA is a steep one, and it's possible Beasley just wasn't ready. Despite coming into one of the most professional and classy organizations in the league, with Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley there to guide him, Beasley didn't have the laser-sharp focus and concentration needed to be routinely successful at the NBA level.
To again use Cousins as an example, the big man turned 23 years old a little under three months ago. His attitude has undoubtedly been the biggest knock against his game, despite averaging All-Star worthy numbers of 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists last season. The Kings have remained loyal to Cousins through the good and the bad, and now have part-owner Shaquille O'Neal in tow to guide the young center.
Beasley, on the other hand, was shipped away from Miami to Minnesota to join the lowly Timberwolves for just a 2011 second-round pick in 2010. He was just 21 years old at the time, and went from a situation where he could develop and mature and into an organization in the midst of rebuilding and uncertainty into what sort of team they wanted to create. The Timberwolves drafted three point-guards in the first-round of the draft that year, taking Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn.
That alone doesn't serve as evidence, but it points to the indecision of team management at that point in time and the state of flux the roster was in. Beasley had a successful season for Minnesota, putting forth 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in 32.3 minutes, but his off-court issues marred any chance of praise for the forward.
Without guidance and a mentor, Beasley behaved much like any young man does and his immaturity showed on the court. He received a career-high eight technical fouls that season—double his total in a Heat uniform—as well as one ejection. That ranked him in the top 15 players for most technical fouls in the 2010-11 season and ultimately received the final blow in the offseason.
At 3 a.m. on June 26 2011, Beasley was pulled over for speeding and fined for possession after a 16.2 gram bag of marijuana was found under the seat. He started just seven games for the Timberwolves the next season, playing just 23.1 minutes a game for the year. Beasley looked to have a fresh start with the Phoenix Suns last season, after signing a three-year deal worth $18 million.
He went on to play a career-low 20.7 minutes with the Suns, scoring just 10.1 points on 40.5 percent shooting. Beasley was also recently arrested for possession in August, and Phoenix promptly waived him from the team's payroll about a month after. In short, Beasley has been on a downhill spiral ever since his departure from South Beach.
The mental fortitude and wisdom of Heat President Pat Riley is rarely matched, and to have him as a contact within your organization is beyond worthwhile. Beasley's involvement in the incident at the Rookie Transition Program only became apparent after Riley seemingly convinced the rookie to come forward, as claimed by Adrian Wojnarowski. If you put two and two together, a rookie NBA forward with a well-documented attitude conflict doesn't suddenly decide to put his career in jeopardy unless an NBA-tested player and coach with renowned influence and a star-studded resume convinces (or tells) you to.
Beasley was in-check for the rest of his time as a member of the Miami Heat, unquestionably due to the guidance of those around him. The forward has gone from prized rookie to scoring small-forward to bench warmer, and now he's back where he started his career.
This time around, Beasley has the advantage and fortune to be in the presence of LeBron James, a four-time MVP, which any number of players would crave. In addition, a roster of hardened veterans like Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and newly-appointed assistant coach Juwan Howard can advise Beasley on how to act and how to react to the NBA game. Throw in Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the fact that the Heat are back-to-back NBA champions, and it's clear Beasley is in the right place to get his act together.
Despite being a five-year veteran, Beasley remains the youngest player on the roster at 24 years of age (he will turn 25 in January). He still has a long way to go in terms of convincing Miami and the entire league that he has abandoned old habits, but he can do so more actively and ably with the Heat. His non-guaranteed contract serves as Beasley's last chance, as it's safe to presume any involvement with the law would result in a cut from the roster.
It is realistically the only reason Beasley finds himself where he is, as it was Beasley himself who suggested the concept of a non-guaranteed contract for his addition to the team. One could seemingly tear that supposed nobility down by pointing to the Phoenix Suns buying out his contact for $7 million, thus making Beasley's non-guaranteed contract less concerning in his own life in terms of income.
It does, however, show maturity in Beasley wanting to return to where he started: where he was most successful and appreciated. It is doubtful the Heat place the forward in similar circumstances to Eddy Curry's supposed redemption project two seasons ago, as the center played just 14 games in the season. Beasley's talent and skill are too high to go to waste on the end of the bench, and it is only a matter of time before he cracks the rotation.
Even in a role of about 20 minutes a game as a reserve, Beasley would give Miami an scoring punch off the bench not seen since Jason Kapono or Jim Jackson before the Big Three era began. What will ultimately set Beasley aside from the rest of the reserves and secure his place in the rotation—provided he remains concentrated in his approach to the game—is his ability to create his own shot.
According to NBA.com, 50.6 percent of Beasley's shots came unassisted last season. To compare him to his MVP teammate, LeBron had 59.9 percent of his scoring come unassisted and residing on his potency as a scorer. Top reserve Ray Allen had 71.2 percent of his shots assisted on, and while he can create shots off-the-dribble and in the lane, he doesn't have the ability to create on offense consistently. The same can be said for the majority of the Heat's players in the sense that they need to be provided for on offense.
To make that point easier, imagine any one of Miami's players on the roster going one-on-one with their opponent and determine their success rate. With the exception of the Big Three, the roster is sorely lacking of a go-to scorer off the bench. As aforementioned, it will all come down to how well Beasley responds to his surroundings in South Beach.
The Heat have placed emphasis on the fact they are a "band of brothers" and "15 strong" multiple times over the past few seasons, and undoubtedly Beasley's teammates have his back. It will be a positive change in the young man's life and hopefully helps in getting his career back on track. His talent and ability to play the game of basketball are underrated due to his off-court issues, but Beasley is finally in the right place to correct his NBA career.
In what seems to be perfect timing, Beasley is back where he started in Miami. If all goes well, the entirety of the Heat organization and fanbase will ultimately welcome him back with open arms. There's no way to tell what the future can bring in the NBA, but the possibility of Beasley fulfilling his potential—no less in a Miami uniform—will make his bumpy career all that much smoother.