Before I get started I'm going to state the obvious; I don't expect my notions in this article to be supported, and I won't be surprised in the slightest if the entire jury calls me out on this one.
With the NBA's biggest off-season in history approaching, the chatter has already started, despite the fact that we are still waist-deep in the playoffs.
The Miami Heat in particular have been the object of the media's affection, with the latest speculation raising the possibility of the Heat dumping Michael Beasley's contract off to a team an under the salary cap in order to gain more room come July 1.
This would theoretically put the Heat in a position to make a run at two maximum contract caliber players.
Before I elaborate on why the Heat should keep Michael Beasley, let me first dismiss the myth of him being a "draft bust" and a player not worth Miami's time or investment.
Michael Beasley is not a bust. He is simply the product of an over-hyped media frenzy following what was one of the most dominant freshmen seasons in recent NCAA history.
In his lone season at Kansas State, Beasley was named a unanimous First Team All-American as well as the Big 12 Player of the Year. He lead the NCAA in rebounding with 12.4 RPG, double-doubles (28) and was the third-best scorer in the nation with 26.2 PPG.
I guess after such a dominant performance expectations were bound to be high. Especially considering the fact that Kevin Durant had dominated as a freshmen the previous year at Texas and followed that with a relatively productive rookie campaign.
Now two years into his NBA career, Michael Beasley has amassed career averages of 14.3 PPG and 5.9 RPG on 46% shooting in 27 minutes per contest.
Is that worthy of the bust label? Is that deserving of the Miami Heat giving up on him, despite him being only 21 years of age?
Let's hold it right there and put this into perspective.
I did some research and dug up the numbers of two of the best power forwards in the league and their productivity throughout their rookie and sophomore campaigns.
Kevin Garnett delivered 13.7 PPG and 7.2 RPG through his first two seasons in the league, while Dirk Nowitzki amassed averages of 14.1 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Both were the same age as Beasley throughout their first two seasons and also averaged similar minutes.
I'm not saying Beasley is as good as KG or Dirk, but merely trying to put into perspective how his "struggles" as a young player are not so uncommon.
The most important thing to recognize here is that Michael Beasley's NBA career thus far has been a product of circumstance. Miami Head Coach Erik Spoelstra summed it up best when he said:
"There's so many misconceptions about Mike and unrealistic expectations. His progress is determined by us, not by outside perspective. He's learning how to help a team win. If you're playing on a team that's not in the playoffs, you end up skipping all of those lessons and they play you through your mistakes. Michael did not have that opportunity here, but he's developed into more of a winning player."
Michael Beasley plays for a winner. Unlike O.J. Mayo and Brook Lopez he has not been given the opportunity to log thirty-five minutes a night and play regardless of the mistakes he makes. If he was to play for a losing team his numbers would certainly be more flashy, but it is a winning culture he is gradually developing in Miami.
Unfortunately that development will be slower than throwing him in and playing him for an entire game, but the risk and reward game is clearly evident here. The gains in maturity, experience and intangibles that are available to be made here will play a significant role in important situations when he is asked to become the man.
So why should the Miami Heat keep him?
At only 21 years of age Beasley has tremendous upside. Following his current trend it would not be unlikely for him to be averaging 18 PPG and 9 RPG in two seasons time, at which point he would still only be 23 years old. If Pat Riley wants to build a dynasty he would be wise to keep Beasley as the plan for the future, as Dwyane Wade likely only has half a decade left to perform at the highest level.
Furthermore, the "struggles" of Beasley have been through a coaching experience which is not the norm for him. He's not used to being a second option or being pulled from games for making mistakes. While initially this appears to be a set-back, the long-term reward is that he will become a player who merges the ability of a talented prodigy with the discipline of old school hard-working legends.
The physical ability and offensive skills are there. He is an above-average leaper, has the stroke of a shooting guard, and rare body control that lets him finish around the ring. In addition, he has excellent hands and all the tools to be a dominant rebounder.
The pieces are there, and sooner or later, he's going to put it all together. It would be in the Miami Heat's best interest to keep him around for when that day comes, or regret it for the rest of franchise history.