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Crunching the Numbers: Is the Miami Heat's Michael Beasley a Bust?

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Michael Beasley #30 of the Miami Heat in action during their game against the Sacramento Kings at ARCO Arena on December 6, 2009 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Steve SmithSenior Writer IApril 30, 2010

This is the second piece I've done like this. The first you can read here, which examined whether Dwyane Wade was deserving of an MVP in 2008-09. I hope you enjoy both.

Well, the season’s over for some, including my beloved boys from South Beach, and everyone knows the tumult we’re about to enter with the upcoming free agent bonanza. Amidst all that, I’ve been reading some stories regarding the Miami Heat’s power forward, Michael Beasley.


Seems there’s quite a bit of sentiment out there that Pat Riley should ship him out. In fact, the Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman, in his “Ask Ira” segment, posted a question from a reader asking “Is Beasley Riley’s biggest blunder?”


Of course, Ira was smart enough to answer no to that ridiculous question, and went on to explain that if any one of the other general managers in the NBA were in that position that day, with Rose off the board, they would’ve likely pulled the trigger on Beasley as well.


Now, in hindsight, many people might conclude the Miami Heat would’ve been better served had Riley given in to Wade’s suggestion they draft O.J. Mayo, and even I’ll admit this seems like it would’ve worked out far better for Miami. But that’s only if you’re looking at it from one angle.


By the way, Riley did give very serious consideration to taking Mayo, but ultimately passed. If, however, he’d drafted Mayo, it’s very likely Miami may have been a little better in 2008-2009, as well as this past season. In fact, Heat fans would probably still be watching their team play in the postseason.


Furthermore, it’s almost certain that if Mayo had been on this team, rather than Beasley, there’d be no doubt as to who Riley would be targeting in the upcoming summer; it would be Chris Bosh (well, maybe Amar’e if he was available, but I believe Bosh would be the primary target).


I will be the first to admit that would be an incredible team (granting the Heat had assembled everything else the same way other than getting Quentin Richardson). The Heat would end up with Chalmers at the point, Wade at the two, Mayo at small forward, Haslem at power forward (because yes, Riley would definitely re-sign him then), and Bosh at the center position.


That would be a pretty scary lineup. Would it be the best Miami could do, and would have signing Mayo prevented them from creating that better team? No, and yes, respectively.


First, let’s examine that question posed to Ira Winderman above. Is Michael Beasley a bust? Given the fact he was a No. 2 pick in the draft, and his abysmal play in the five-game series against Boston, it would be easy to say, “Hell yeah it was!”


I say not so fast there, pal.


It would be prudent for every single one of Michael Beasley’s detractors to remember one thing; he is only 21 years old. Hell, I’ve got a few articles of clothes nearly as old (and no, they’re not raggedy or anything…lol)


Did you get that now? Are you understanding the words coming out of my mouth?...well, not out of my mouth (they’re actually the written word coming off of my…ahhh, you get the idea).


Let me repeat that, just in case. Michael Beasley is only 21 YEARS OLD!


Now, let’s examine just what he’s done as a 21-year-old power forward in the NBA these past two years.


His first year in the NBA he averaged nearly 25 minutes a game, and played in 81 of the 82 games Miami played. His second year, this past season, he averaged nearly 30 minutes, and played in 78 games. It must be noted that this is pretty significant, since it shows he’s not injury-prone.


In his time on the court his first year he shot 47 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range, while shooting 77.2 percent from the free-throw line. He averaged 13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 TOPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG, and 2.3 PFPG.


In some statistical categories in his second year he regressed, and in some he progressed. In his time on the court his second year he shot 45 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from three-point range, while shooting 80.0 percent from the free-throw line. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.7 TOPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG, and 2.8 PFPG.


So, his scoring is up nearly a point, his rebounding is up one rebound on average, and he’s a bit better at the line. He’s also regressed significantly in his three-point shooting, but he’s still not abysmal, and could easily improve that with work over the summer.


For the sake of trying to really give Beasley a fair judgment, how about we compare his numbers to a few other power forwards who were in the NBA around age 20 or 21.


How about Dirk Nowitzki? Well, during the 1998-99 season at the age of 20.5 years old he averaged 8.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.6 TOPG, 0.6 BPG, and 2.2 PFPG, while shooting 40.5 percent from the field, 20.6 percent from three-point range, and 77.3 percent from the free-throw line. I’m sorry, but Dirk, you take a huge second place to Michael


How about Amar’e Stoudemire? Well, during the 2002-03 season, at the age of 20.5 years old he averaged 13.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.3 TOPG, 1.1 BPG, and 3.3 PFPG, while shooting 47.2 percent from the field, 20.0 percent from three-point range, and 66.1 percent from the free-throw line. I’ll take Michael’s statline over Stoudemire’s here, thank you (even if he did average two more rebounds).


And what about Chris Bosh? Well, during the 2003-04 season, at the age of 20, he averaged 11.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.4 TOPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.4 BPG, and 2.9 PFPG, while shooting 45.9 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from three-point range, and 70.1 percent from the free-throw line. Again, I’ll take Beasley’s statline over this any day.


Oh, and how about we look at Bosh’s next season of 2004-05, when he was 21? In that year he averaged 16.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 2.3 TOPG, 0.9 SPG, 1.4 BPG, and 2.8 PFPG, while shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 30.0 percent from three-point range, and 76.0 percent from the free-throw line. While Bosh’s numbers were a little better, it’s nothing significant.


Now, what can we expect might, and I stress that word here, “might” happen with Beasley in the future? Will he become anything like these three power forwards? Who knows. Hell, he may end up never reaching the potential everyone says he has. Or, he may surpass even these three in terms of statistical greatness. Anyone who doubts he has the skills to do so simply has never watched him play.


Yet, skills are never enough. He has to put it all together, mentally and physically, in order to excel in the NBA. That being said, let’s see how well the three power forwards we looked at above excelled in later years.


Dirk’s best two statistical seasons were probably 2004-05 and 2005-06. In ’04-05 he averaged 26.1 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, and shot 45.9 percent from the field, 39.9 percent from three-point range, and 86.9 percent from the free-throw line. In ’05-06 he averaged 26.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, and shot 48.0 percent from the field, 40.6 percent from three-point range, and 90.1 percent from the free-throw line.


Stoudemire’s best two statistical seasons were probably 2004-05 and 2007-08. In ’04-05 he averaged 26.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, and shot 55.9 percent from the field, 18.8 percent from three-point range, and 73.3 percent from the free-throw line. In ’07-08 he averaged 25.2 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, and shot 59.0 percent from the field, 16.1 percent from three-point range, and 80.5 percent from the free-throw line.


Bosh’s best two statistical seasons were probably the last two of 2008-09 and 2009-10. In ’08-09 he averaged 22.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, and shot 48.7 percent from the field, 24.5 percent from three-point range, and 81.7 percent from the free-throw line. In ’09-10 he averaged 24.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, and shot 51.8 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from three-point range, and 79.7 percent from the free-throw line.


Will Michael Beasley ever reach these numbers being put up by Dirk, Amar’e, and Bosh? Who knows. It’s not likely he’ll put up such numbers in the next year or two if Miami does land someone like LeBron James, who I believe they’re strongly targeting.


As is talked about in the piece yesterday on Beasley by Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, “The Beasley Story: From No. 2 Pick to No. 3 Option” Michael will surely have to find a way to get his numbers in the upcoming seasons by learning to score without the ball. He won’t be the first or second option on this team, he and will be lucky if he’s even the third.


That being said, as the numbers above show, Beasley is anything but a bust as a 21-year-old power forward in the NBA. He’s simply been a victim of expectations that were too high by his fans. Even I’ve been guilty of that at times.


So, give the kid a break, people. He’s going to be something special I believe. Will he be the next Stoudemire? Not likely. Will he be a very, very solid power forward on the Miami Heat, who can go far in helping them win multiple titles (with the help of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James…lol)? Absolutely.

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