Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Gambling on Michael Beasley

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 29, 2014

Pros and Cons of Los Angeles Lakers Gambling on Michael Beasley

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    From the Miami Heat to the Minnesota Timberwolves. From the Wolves to the desert-based Phoenix Suns. From the Suns back to South Beach and the Heat. 

    In just six seasons, Michael Beasley has become quite the well-traveled NBA player, hopping from team to team as he attempts to jump-start his career in the Association, one that fizzled after he was selected at No. 2 in the 2008 NBA draft. 

    Could the Los Angeles Lakers be his next destination? 

    According to USA Today's Sam Amick, Beasley has already met with the recently downtrodden organization for a second time this offseason, though he remains an unrestricted free agent: 

    After missing out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in July, the Lakers held a free agent workout Tuesday in Los Angeles. The workout included forward Michael Beasley; big men Dexter Pittman, Greg Stiemsma, and Daniel Orton; and guards Bobby Brown, Toney Douglas, Ben Hansbrough and Malcolm Lee, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

    Putting aside the fact that this makes it sound as though Beasley is a Plan B after the team missed out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, this is still significant. The Lakers have two unfilled roster spots, and the former No. 2 pick is now a legitimate candidate for one of them. 

    But is that a good thing? 

Pro: Plenty of Potential

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    Prior to his inability to excel in the NBA, Beasley was always held in high regard. 

    When he strode across the stage at the 2008 NBA draft in the suit you can see up above, he was coming off of a pretty incredible portion of his amateur career. He'd managed to back up a McDonald's All-American selection in high school by earning a consensus All-American spot for his work at Kansas State. His averages were incredibly impressive—26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per game during his freshman season, per Sports-Reference.com

    Of course he was a top pick. He looked the part of a dominant player, a go-to scorer who could thrive on the glass and carry an NBA offense. 

    Without using the benefit of hindsight, ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) recently ranked him as the No. 17 draft prospect since 2000, based solely on his pre-NBA resume. The description, which you can read below, came between John Wall and Dwight Howard, if that gives you any perspective on how valuable his stock was in '08: 

    Before Rose made a push in March and Rose's hometown Bulls secured the No. 1 pick, many regarded Beasley as the best prospect in the draft after a dominant freshman season at Kansas State, where he averaged 26.2 PPG and 12.4 RPG. Beasley also was considered an elite prospect in high school, and had the ability to play both inside and outside. Concerns about Beasley's off-court issues and potential "tweener" status arose before the draft, and both ended up being well-founded as he went into rehab after his rookie year, struggled to replicate his dominant college season and has bounced around between the Heat, Wolves, Suns and then back to the Heat.

    Beasley may have flamed out with multiple teams, but he's still only 25 years old. And he's a fairly young 25 at that, as he won't turn 26 until January, when the 2014-15 season is already underway. 

    There's still a chance he's a late bloomer waiting for the right situation to come about, one he hasn't found up to this point. 

Con: Not as Much as He Once Had

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    Then again, Beasley is almost 26 years old. 

    We know a lot more about him now than we did after his dominant campaign with the Wildcats, and it doesn't exactly leave him drawing too many glowing reviews. By now, Beasley has had a chance to play with multiple teams, under multiple coaches and in multiple offensive systems. 

    None have worked out for him, and it's not due to a lack of effort on the part of the teams. With the Wolves in particular, he was given ample opportunities to serve as a featured player, but he squandered them by devolving into a fairly inefficient volume scorer who didn't make contributions in any other area. 

    Rebounding, for example, is widely considered one of the statistics that best translates from the collegiate game to the Association, but that hasn't been the case for the former Kansas State star. 

    Per Sports-Reference.com, Beasley trailed only Jason Thompson and Kevin Love (yes, that Kevin Love) in total rebounds throughout the entire NCAA field during his one collegiate season. No qualified player averaged more rebounds per game. 

    But in the NBA, he's topped out at 6.4 rebounds per game and 7.9 per 36 minutes, the latter mark coming from his rookie go-round. While the skills are still there, the effort and desire have been dormant, though they seemed to be coming back a bit this past season.

    Suffice it to say, his skills haven't translated to the sport's highest level. He may still be only a quarter of a century old, but he's also got six years of NBA experience under his belt.

    A bet that he's a late bloomer may just be handing free money to a bookie. 

Pro: Gives Kobe Bryant Another Complementary Scorer at a Position of Need

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    Attempt to read this next sentence without thinking that it's intentionally disrespectful to the basketball legend named Kobe Bryant

    The Los Angeles Lakers will not be successful if they're relying on No. 24 to carry the scoring burden each and every night of the season. 

    While Bryant is a historically excellent scorer who's averaging above 25 points per game during his illustrious career, he's also 36 years old and coming off multiple major injuries. Recovering his athleticism—to its full extent, at least—will be rather difficult, and he'll still be the subject of massive quantities of defensive attention. 

    As I broke down here, Alex English is the highest-scoring 36-year-old wing player of all time, averaging 17.9 points per game as he combated Father Time. Of course, a 40-year-old Michael Jordan broke that mark with the Washington Wizards, but that's neither here nor there. 

    Veteran wing players with this much wear and tear on the tires do not carry offenses, especially when they're coming off the injuries Bryant has suffered. Will he break English's mark for 36-year-olds? Sure, that seems like a pretty safe bet, all things considered. 

    Should he? Well, that's a different question entirely.

    Nonetheless, the Lakers have to surround him with players who can relieve some of the scoring burden. And if there's any area in which Beasley can shoulder some responsibility, it's that one. Especially because he's a natural small forward, something that's hard to find on the Los Angeles roster. 

    Nick Young (a 2-guard by trade), Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry currently comprise the small forward rotation, which means that an upgrade would be rather nice at the position. 

Con: Potential Distraction While Shifting Chemistry

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Beasley doesn't exactly have the most stellar off-court reputation, as he's gotten into trouble on multiple occasions. 

    His NBA career began with a strange incident involving marijuana and fire alarms at the Rookie Transition Program, one that eventually led to a $50,000 fine. A year later, he was admitted to a rehab facility, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, so that he could "address possible substance and psychological issues."

    In 2011, he was fined after he was pulled over for speeding and a police officer found marijuana in the vehicle, and a few months later, he made hand-to-face contact with a heckler during a pickup game. In 2013, he was arrested in Arizona, once more for marijuana-related reasons, and that led to his dismissal from the Suns. 

    That's not a fun sequence. 

    And while he was able to avoid getting into trouble in the South Beach party scene, reports still don't indicate that he was particularly mature during his time with the Heat. 

    "A person with direct knowledge cited several reasons for the Heat's lack of interest: Inconsistency, lack of trust in his defense (and ability to execute the Heat's defensive system), and maturity/focus issues, which are still a concern even though he improved somewhat in that regard last season," wrote Barry Jackson for the Miami Herald

    Do the Lakers really need that type of potential distraction on the roster? While attempting to change the culture under the new Byron Scott regime, off-court situations should be avoided at all costs.

    He may have kept his nose clean in Miami, but Hollywood is a different beast. 

Pro: Won't Be a Financial Burden

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    This situation would be quite different if Beasley were going to be brought aboard on a multiyear contract or one that would pay him millions—note the plurality of that word—each season he was on the books. 

    That's not going to happen, though. 

    The forward is coming off a season in which he earned just over $1 million on a one-year deal with Miami, and he's likely to get the exact same type of contract in Los Angeles should it decide he's worthy of one. There's no incentive for the organization to give him anything more, especially with all the risk swirling around him. 

    Plus, Los Angeles wouldn't compromise its future financial flexibility by bringing a massive question mark into the picture for 2015-16. That would be a nonsensical decision, especially because it's possible to structure the deal with a team option for the second year, one that would allow Beasley to be released with no monetary ramifications if he failed to prove himself. 

    So, where's the risk in a cheap one-year deal? 

Con: Takes Away Minutes from Others

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    In the rotations. That's where. 

    For a high-upside player like Julius Randle, minutes are already going to be rather difficult to come by. He's already competing with Ed Davis (who needs playing time to show off his upside), Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill (who needs to play to justify his contract) and Ryan Kelly, and adding one more forward to the mix is problematic. 

    After all, Beasley isn't really a small forward, but rather a combo forward, one who can absolutely line up at either the 3 or the 4 without giving up too much.

    According to Basketball-Reference.com, at least 30 percent of his minutes have come at power forward during each and every season of his disappointing career. In fact, over the course of the six campaigns in question, he's spent 34 percent of his minutes at the 3, 50 percent at the 4 and 15 percent at the 5. 

    While he'd undoubtedly help the rotation at small forward—assuming he wasn't a distraction—he'd just contribute to the crowding in the frontcourt.

    Is that really necessary with this much untapped potential already in place? 

Verdict: Why Not?

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    All of the cons can be explained away, while the pros still exist. 

    Sure, Beasley might not have as much potential as he did when he was coming out of Kansas State, but is that really a reason to avoid taking a flier on someone? Even if he only has enough upside to justify a late first-round pick now, that's still better than nothing, particularly when you look at the rest of the names the Lakers worked out—Dexter Pittman, Greg Stiemsma, Daniel Orton, Bobby Brown, Toney Douglas, Ben Hansbrough and Malcolm Lee

    He might be a potential distraction, but he also hasn't committed any serious infractions since leaving the Suns. In fact, Erik Spoelstra was consistently on his side throughout his brief second tenure with the Heat. 

    And if he is a distraction? Cut him and absorb any financial penalty. It's not as though the Lakers are hankering for extra cash, and there shouldn't be any penalties for the all-important 2015 offseason. 

    As for the minutes concerns, Scott has done nothing but indicate that the Lakers will be a meritocracy this season. If Beasley deserves to play, he'll play and have a better shot at finding his long-term home in Los Angeles. If he doesn't, he'll remain glued to the bench, which won't crowd the forward rotations in the least bit. 

    None of those potential negatives can trump the upside, particularly because Beasley can play a position of need while operating on what's sure to be a remarkably cheap contract. 

    "We know a lot of people aren't going to give us a chance, but we feel we're going to surprise a lot of people," Scott recently told Lakers.com's Mike Trudell. The surprise factor would only go up if Beasley somehow panned out for this roster.

    So, again, why not?