Is Michael Beasley a Lock to Flourish with Miami Heat in 2013-14?

Ben Leibowitz@BenLeboCorrespondent IIISeptember 22, 2013

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 17:  Michael Beasley #0 of the Phoenix Suns and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat during the NBA game at US Airways Center on November 17, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Heat defeated the Suns 97-88. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Adding Michael Beasley on a non-guaranteed, one-year deal worth slightly more than $1 million is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Miami Heat. But does that mean B-Easy is a lock to flourish with the defending champions?

Following five roller-coaster seasons in the NBA, Beasley is set to return to the team that drafted him second overall in 2008. This after the Phoenix Suns released the left-handed forward, citing “personal and professional conduct standards,” according to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.

Beasley signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Suns prior to the 2012-13 season under former general manager Lance Blanks. He only lasted one year in the Valley of the Sun.

Blanks opened Beasley’s 2012 introductory press conference in Phoenix by saying the following, via Kevin Zimmerman of ValleyoftheSuns.com:

I’m as excited as I’ve ever been in my whole career to welcome this young man into our organization. This is just extremely exciting for me as I know it is many others in the organization. I honestly feel this way, he is a wonderful, wonderful young man. I feel fortunate to be sitting next to him.

Lance Blanks had nothing put positive things to say about signing Michael Beasley. Less than a year later, he's no longer the Phoenix Suns GM.
Lance Blanks had nothing put positive things to say about signing Michael Beasley. Less than a year later, he's no longer the Phoenix Suns GM.

The irony in that quote is palpable, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Blanks was removed as GM less than a year later.

During the press conference, Beasley faced questions about his past issues with marijuana use.

“I realize 10 minutes of feeling good is not really worth putting my life and my career and my legacy in jeopardy, so I’m confident to say that that part of my career, that part of my life, is over and won’t be coming back,” he said per ESPN.

The Blanks quote is bad, but the Beasley quote is downright cringe-worthy.

Michael Beasley's mugshot stemming from an arrest made on August 6, 2013, by Scottsdale police. Photo Courtesy: ScottsdaleAZ.gov.
Michael Beasley's mugshot stemming from an arrest made on August 6, 2013, by Scottsdale police. Photo Courtesy: ScottsdaleAZ.gov.

In August, the troubled 24-year-old was arrested and booked pending charges for marijuana possession, according to the city of Scottsdale’s official web site.

This was not an isolated incident. In fact, the marijuana possession merely adds to a long, troubled history for Beasley (and I’m only including his issues during his one season with Phoenix).

On January 25, Beasley was reportedly pulled over for driving 71 MPH on Scottsdale Road (a 45 MPH zone). According to Arizona Sports, “He was cited for driving with a suspended license, driving with excessive speed, driving with expired registration and failure to display a license plate on the rear of the vehicle.”

During the same month, Beasley was reportedly under investigation by Scottsdale police for an alleged sexual assault, according to local NBC reporter Lauren Peikoff.

Additionally, Sports on Earth writer Shaun Powell tweeted in December that Beasley was causing problems internally according to a source:

The list of Beasley’s issues is extensive, but he’s been given yet another chance to succeed. The question is, will that fresh start allow him to thrive with a championship favorite?

Honestly speaking, playing for a championship contender is more motivating than playing for an NBA cellar dweller. This isn’t an excuse given the amount of money Beasley was raking in, but it hints that he could finally discover the motivation needed to contribute.

Unfortunately, Beasley has never excelled with limited minutes.

In three seasons averaging fewer than 25 minutes per game, he’s notched 11.8 points per contest. By contrast, he’s averaged 17 points per game over the course of two seasons when receiving more than 25 minutes of action.

Knowing that Beasley is behind guys like LeBron James, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh on the depth chart, there’s close to zero chance he plays more than 25 minutes per game. In fact, he may not even crack the 20-minute-per-game barrier.

This doesn’t bode well for his chances of succeeding as a limited role player.

Also, in 20.7 minutes per game for the Suns last season, the former Kansas State star proved to be a lazy and ineffective defender.

According to Basketball Reference, the offensive rating of opponents was 4.8 points per 100 possessions better when Beasley was on the court. Beasley's frequent defensive gaffes often left P.J. Tucker—the Suns best defender—either reprimanding his teammate or shaking his head in disgust.

He would throw errant passes, miss defensive assignments and hoist up ill-advised shots, like this one:

Let’s just say that interim head coach Lindsey Hunter’s reaction on the sideline illustrated exactly how Suns fans felt throughout the season.

So can Beasley turn his career around back where it all started? Veteran role models and a winning atmosphere finally surround him, and he’ll enter the 2013-14 season with essentially no expectations.

Nevertheless, he had his worst career season by far with Phoenix. He finished the year with negative-1.5 win shares (yes, they can, in fact, go negative), an inefficient 31.3 percent shooting clip from three-point range and a career-low 40.5 percent shooting from the field. Those stats are all coupled with his numerous off-court incidences.

He did notch career highs in field-goal percentage (47.2) and three-point percentage (40.7) as a rookie in Miami, but those numbers have been on a steady decline since.

So is Beasley a lock to flourish like he did as a rookie now that he’s back in Miami? The answer to that question is spelled as follows: N-O.

He’s broken past promises by continuing to use marijuana and by continuing to get in trouble with the law at nearly every turn. There’s no guarantee that his troubles off the court will subside—and the Heat know this by giving him a non-guaranteed contract.

Is a non-guaranteed $1 million going to motivate Beasley more than the three-year, $18 million deal in Phoenix did? That remains to be seen.

At the end of the day, I believe that Greg Oden—even with his injury history—is a safer bet at this point than the on-court/off-court antics of Beasley.

His career full of problems was more than enough to justify an end to his NBA career. However, talent and potential often trumps off-court issues, which can sometimes be rectified.

Regardless, this could wind up being the troubled forward's last chance as a professional.

Miami made a calculated risk by signing him. Now it's up to Beasley to either reward the organization, or to continue making mistakes that put his career in jeopardy.


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