The 2007 Miami Heat opened their season with Jason Williams, Ricky Davis, Udonis Haslem, and Shaquille O'Neal opening night in a 91-80 loss to the Detroit Pistons. Sixty-six losses, a blockbuster trade, and a superstar's bodily breakdown later, the Heat were in a position to draft Michael Beasley, arguably the best player in college basketball and a dominating forward from Kansas State.
He joins Haslem, the only starter remaining from that opening night lineup, Dwyane Wade (who was recovering from injury), Shawn Marion, and fellow rookie Mario Chalmers in a revamped Miami Heat unit.
Now, the Heat's top draft pick, No. 2 overall, and most famous Heat rookie since Dwyane Wade, is getting veteran minutes. After netting just nine points in the opening-night loss to the Knicks, Beasley scored in double figures nine straight games, tallying more than 15 in five of those games.
The man known as "Beast"ly, came to the NBA at just 19 years old with an already diverse offense repertoire. He can face up and take just about any power forward in the league off the dribble to the tin. For a man (reportedly) 6'10'' (he's closer to 6'8''), the DC native is an adept ball-handler and can go with either hand, making it difficult to funnel him to a weak hand or to the teeth of the D. He can just as easily spin baseline or middle and with his long arms get to the rim and finish using either hand.
When Beasley gets into the lane, he possesses outstanding body control in the air. He will lay it up, dunk or, or hang and hit with equal effectiveness.
While the Heat have not asked him to post much, he has shown an ability to take smaller players on the block and finish over the top. Against bigger players Beasley will use his quickness, turning and spinning from defenders. When he spins away from help, he can finish, but spinning into double teams has gotten him into trouble from time to time and has lead to turnovers.
From 12-20 feet, his jump shot is pure and he can even step out to hit threes. While he has confidence in that jump shot, he will hesitate and throw off his rhythm on wide open looks. He doesn't take as many forced jump shots as a rookie like Kevin Durant did, and most of his misses come off tough inside looks. Additionally for a rookie to be shooting almost 87 percent from the charity stripe, he has the parts in place to be a deadly shooter and scorer.
The Heat were hoping to get more out of their top pick as a rebounder. The 15.4 points a game is nice, but 5.6 boards a game as a power forward, albeit an undersized one, just won't cut it on a team who is already small up front. Beasley led college basketball, not just the Big 12, in rebounding in his one year at K-State and has shown the capabilities to assert his will on the glass when he so chooses. Unfortunately, he seems to lose focus at times and coast.
This gets him into the most trouble on the defensive end, as well. You see a player getting posted on the low block by Greg Oden and he'll come up with a block on a jump hook (a shot that should NEVER be blocked by an on-ball defender). The next minute he's not showing hard on pick and rolls, or not rotating and calling out in the half court.
Beasley's physical tools, with his combination of quickness and lean strength, should make him the kind of rugged defender a player like teammate and similarly sized Shawn Marion is. At this point however, Beasley just does not play with that kind of desire and focus on defense. He will turn it on and off seemingly when he feels challenged.
Coming out of Kansas State, NBA scouts knew this kid could score. There were questions about his mental capacity and maturity, as well as his defense. Beasley will show you flashes of out-of-this-world ability and the next he'll look lost. With the way Wade is playing, the Heat don't need Beasley to be "the guy," but they need him to play hard every possession. With the physical tools this kid has, just playing hard and playing focused should he's capable of 25 and 10 whenever he puts his mind to it.
If the coaches in Miami can find a way to turn on the proverbial switch in that wild head of Michael Beasley, he will be scary, and that Miami team will be a force.