Lakers Rumors: Potential Michael Beasley Signing Carries Minimal Risk or Reward

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Lakers Rumors: Potential Michael Beasley Signing Carries Minimal Risk or Reward
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

The two words nestled together in a sentence, side by side like two baby birds waiting for their mother to come back with their morning nourishment, have become the NBA embodiment of the Yuck sticker: Michael. Beasley. 

The second overall pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley has come to represent nearly everything common fans say they would not be if given the chance to realize their dreams. Beasley, selected one pick behind Derrick Rose and with enough God-given talents to make that selection seem foolish, has squandered his every last professional chance.

There was the marijuana incident at his first event as an NBA player, the rookie symposium. There was the stint in the rehabilitation center after a series of cryptic posts on Twitter. There was the time he was pulled over with marijuana in his car in Minneapolis. Then there was the other time he was pulled over with the ganja in his car, this time in Scottsdale. The latter incident helped expedite the end of his "toxic" relationship with the Phoenix Suns.

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Yet at the end of the picture Beasley has painted, one of a troubled young man whose demons crop up like an uncontrollable plague, there has always been an NBA team at the end of the rainbow hoping he's ready to get right. The Heat became the Timberwolves, who became the Suns, who became the Heat again.

If recent reports are any indication, we might be able to add the Lakers to that list. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin and numerous other outlets reported that Beasley was at the team's El Segundo, California, practice facility for a formal workout. 

"[Beasley] looked very good and he has been working out," one source said. "A tiny rust from layoff, but [he] did a good job."

Despite the positive outlook from most who saw the workout, the Lakers have not offered him a contract at this time. Beasley's representation and Heat president Pat Riley also recently spoke, and he's still a "consideration" for one of their final roster spots, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

But the Lakers match is far more interesting, mostly because of the dichotomy between the two franchises. The Heat, despite LeBron James' departure, remain a top-three team in the Eastern Conference and are a couple lucky breaks away from sneaking into the Finals.

The Lakers would need roughly 11 Western Conference teams to take the same cruise ship and have the entire plot of Captain Phillips play itself out to be among the favorites. And even then they might be worse than Sacramento.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Lakers and Beasley are, in many ways, a match that makes you throw up your hands and say, "Why not?"

Even with the additions of Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and rookie Julius Randle, this is a team headed nowhere near the playoffs. Stuck without any more cap space and having already used what's left of their room exception to sign Xavier Henry, there's not much for Mitch Kupchak to do other than follow his semi-successful blueprint from last season.

Kupchak picked up former first-round picks in Henry, Kendall Marshall, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Nick Young and had a good deal of success. All five players currently have NBA jobs—something that probably couldn't have been said without the Lakers' help. 

Beasley fits the mold almost perfectly. For all the criticism he (rightfully) receives, Beasley is still only a few years removed from averaging 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game with Minnesota. He's a career 34.8 percent shooter from beyond the three-point arc and is skilled enough to at least make his defender think about crashing into the paint. This seems somehow impossible but remains true: Beasley is just 25 freaking years old.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

He is barely over a year older than I and nearly a full year younger than Stephen Curry. We're not talking about Allen Iverson or Stephon Marbury on the last legs of their career; there might be some salvageable talent left here.

More importantly from the Lakers' perspective, Beasley is in no position to demand guarantees in his contract. He's burned enough bridges league-wide that any NBA contract—even one without a guarantee date—should be seen as a blessing. That gives the Lakers freedom that not even the Heat had last season.

Beasley could show up to the first day of camp with Andrew Bynum disguised as a luchador wrestling tag team called Los Malcontentes, throw eggs at his teammates and it wouldn't matter. Byron Scott could cut him the same day without the Lakers having paid him a cent. No harm, no foul.

At issue is whether Beasley still has enough talent to make even the potential one-day headache worth the risk.

It's hard to answer no when looking at the offensive numbers. Beasley, while playing sporadically and sometimes in garbage time, had his most efficient shooting season in Miami. He made nearly half of his shots, knocked down 38.9 percent from three and averaged 18.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. His individual production was right in line with where it's been his entire career, and he remains an impressive finisher near the basket.

Synergy Sports (subscription required) measured that Beasley shot a ridiculous 52.2 percent in isolations last season. While he still chucks up too many mid-range jumpers, he's at least generally an average performer from most areas of the floor. The Lakers might wind up impressed when seeing Lin and Beasley run together in transition.

It's the other areas where Scott might want to cover his eyes.

Beasley remains a horrific defender. The Heat spent much of the first couple months praising him for a renewed commitment to defense, but the honeymoon phase was short-lived. Erik Spoelstra excised him from the rotation for the last quarter of the regular season and then used him as a "break in case of emergency" player during the postseason. Beasley played in four playoff games for a total of 23 minutes.

That absence was caused almost entirely by his lackadaisical defensive effort and inability to execute Spoelstra's system, which calls for constant alertness and a high basketball IQ. Too often Beasley could be caught looking nowhere in particular before losing his man for an open jumper. 

NBA.com
NBA.com

Opposing players have also crushed him in one-on-one situations. Beasley ranked in the 17th percentile defending isolation plays, and 96 percent of the NBA was better at defending in the post on a per-possession basis, per Synergy. The Heat allowed 107.9 points per 100 possessions when Beasley was on the floor last season, equivalent to, ironically, the Lakers' 28th-ranked unit.

Here's a fun fact about the Lakers roster: It already has quite a few terrible defenders. Lin tops out as average on his best nights. No one knows what to make of Kobe Bryant, and he stopped trying defensively before knee and Achilles injuries.

I'm not sure typing Swaggy P and defense in the same sentence is legal under California's penal code. Boozer is bad, Randle wasn't great at Kentucky and Jordan Hill works his tail off but probably doesn't have the bulk to guard centers every night.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Lakers might be the NBA's worst defensive team next season, and Beasley represents a roster redundancy. Boozer, Randle, Ed Davis and Ryan Kelly put the team four deep in guaranteed contracts at power forward, and that's without accounting for any minutes Hill might play next to Robert Sacre.

Beasley can play the 3, and the Lakers have a need on the wing, but asking him to defend wings consistently is a nightmare waiting to happen. He's at his best when he can play the small-ball 4, where his OK jumper isn't a liability and he can use his off-the-dribble craftiness to get open shots close to the hoop.

The Lakers have a roster clogged with guys who need the ball in their hands to be effective. Bryant, Lin, Young, Boozer and the still-alive Steve Nash are at their best when they're among the focal points of the offense. There is, the last I checked, only one ball on a basketball floor. It's already going to be amusing enough to see Scott trying to turn this clown car roster into a cogent basketball unit.

A Beasley signing in some regard makes sense. He's young, talented and can probably be a pretty productive scorer on a bad team. But he also exacerbates problems the Lakers already have, creates roster redundancies and comes with a checkered past that could upset the balance of an already personality-driven locker room.

Sometimes, the Yuck sticker is there for a reason.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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