Should Los Angeles Lakers Take Gamble on Michael Beasley?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

Jan 26, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward Michael Beasley (8)  during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Beasley is the proud owner of unlimited opportunities.

The oft-embattled swingman has made a career out of second and third and fourth—you get the point—chances, and the Los Angeles Lakers may be ready to give him another one, per ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin:

Bill Oram of the Orange County Register confirms the news, while also noting there may be nothing to see here:

This is the point of the NBA offseason when teams look to snag obviously flawed talents at bargain prices. Most of the big names are gone; almost all funds have dried up. Now is the time for marginal improvements and cheap transactions that bear little to no risk.

Is Beasley that player for the Lakers?

Offensive Fit

MIAMI, FL - March 10: Michael Beasley #8 of the Miami Heat shoots the ball against the Washington Wizards at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on March 10 2014. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or u
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

Although Beasley isn't someone who will enter Los Angeles to parades and general fanfare, the team is impressed with how his workout went.

"[Beasley] looked very good and he has been working out," a source told McMenamin. "A tiny rust from layoff, but [he] did a good job."

And the ambiguous evaluations wear on.

The No. 2 pick of the 2008 draft is continuously measured against his potential. He's carved a living—sometimes a lucrative living—out of intermittent success and the possibility of him turning into a sustainable asset. 

Last season he returned to the Miami Heat, the team that shipped him out in 2010 so its Big Three and subsequent dynasty hopes could exist. The thinking was he could find success and stability with the club that drafted him and had enough esteemed veterans to mentor him.

That vision didn't include a permanent spot in the rotation. Beasley would log significant minutes before seemingly falling out of the rotation altogether. Rinse, lather, repeat.

In limited playing time—Beasley averaged 15.1 minutes per game—he did what he does best: dominate per-36 minute stat lines. He averaged 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per 36 minutes, which is right in line with his career marks of 19.2, 7.1 and 1.9, respectively.

This, no doubt, is the aspect of Beasley's game the Lakers will be most interested in. They aren't overrun with players who can contribute off the bench in limited playing time and roles. 

There's Nick Young, then there's...well, there's a bunch of maybes. 

Maybe Julius Randle can be that offensive spark off the bench. Or maybe Ed Davis. The Lakers don't know. All they—along with the rest of us—actually know is their bench won't be very good unless Steve Nash (assuming Jeremy Lin starts) travels back to 2011-12 and Randle plays Rookie of the Year basketball.

More than most of their roster, Beasley can get up shots in a hurry. The issue is getting him those shots, like Silver Screen & Roll's Harrison24 considers:

Throughout his career, Beasley has proven that he can score points if given enough shots, but after his struggles in Minnesota, Phoenix, and his return to Miami, he would seemingly not warrant much more than a minimum deal and a small role on this Lakers team. He does however, offer the ability to play both forward positions and would add some needed depth to the rotation.

Off-ball scoring is paramount for a Lakers club teeming with ball-wielding talent. From Kobe Bryant to Lin to Young to Randle to Davis, they have players who need the rock in their hands. Too many of them.

To that end, Beasley needs to satisfy the spot-up shooting demand, an area in which he's struggled.

Only once since 2009 has he connected on more than 43 percent of his catch-and-shoot field goals, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required). He's also drilled more 35 percent of his standstill treys just once. 

More than a quarter of his field-goal attempts were spot-up shots last season with the Heat, though. Packed with superstars, they were really the first team to force him into that complementary scoring role. The Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves—and the Heat during his first go-round—tried to use him as a featured scorer. 

It's a transition that's going to take some time, but Beasley showed flashes of comfort last season, drilling 36.8 percent of his standalone bombs. If the Lakers choose to use him as strictly a spot-up shooter, there's a slight chance he can make an actual contribution.

If they try to turn him into anything else, their already crowded offensive dynamic has one more ball-brandishing talent it doesn't need.

Defensive Fit

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JULY 29:  Byron Scott, new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks to the media during a press conference on July 29, 2014 at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

Beasley would fit right in with the rest of the Lakers, because he's not known for his defense. 

"I think they put a roster together that will be very competitive," Lakers coach Byron Scott said at his introductory presser. "The thing I have to do is put together a defensive basketball team."

Scott has his work cut out for him already, and Beasley wouldn't make it any easier. He has a lifetime defensive rating of 108 and registered a 105 on the NBA's 11th-best defensive team last season. 

Opposing small forwards, meanwhile, have averaged a 14.9 player efficiency rating against him over the last two seasons, per That makes him a serviceable defender at best, which, while role player-ish, won't help the Lakers improve their 28th-ranked defense. 

Not to mention his defensive effort fluctuates. One night, he looks like a two-way player with respectable defensive chops; the next he's nowhere to be found, blowing rotations, lagging in transition, getting smoked off the dribble.

"It's really mentally," Beasley said last December of his defense, via the Sun Sentinel's Shandel Richardson. "It's first, wanting to do it. It's second, just taking a stand."

Taking defensive stands regularly is something Beasley has never done. Not with the Suns, not with the Wolves, not with the Heat. 

What he can do for the Lakers, then, is up in the air.

To Roll, or Not Roll, the Dice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 18:  Michael Beasley #8 of the Miami Heat runs out before Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers on May 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Something NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote on the Lakers' interest in Beasley stands out from everything else. 

My reaction? You can’t see it but right now I’m shrugging my shoulders.

He’s certainly not the answer in Los Angeles — and he doesn’t bring the defense they need — but there could be worse guys to bring in on a minimum deal (probably non-guaranteed). Beasley doesn’t really move the needle for the Lakers in any direction.

When Helin—and many others—cite Beasley's checkered past, they're talking about his marginal to nonexistent impact on the Lakers. That says something. 

This is the same Beasley with recurring legal troubles. The same Beasley who exited Phoenix amid rumors of his noxious locker room presence:

And yet, for what seems to be the first time, we're focused more on his on-court impact. 

Signing him is a risk, to be sure. Beasley won't earn a lot of money, but any off-court problems he creates would be additional headaches the Lakers just don't need. There's no guarantee he fits with this team or becomes best friends with Kobe. 

But there's also no guarantee he creates those problems. 

Perhaps he'll be a little less 2012-13 and a little more 2013-14—out of the headlines, a blip on the gossip radar, playing minutes he has to earn, trying to resurrect a career that's not yet completely dead. 

The Lakers aren't tracking toward a championship, nor are they looking for a savior. They're just looking. They're in a position to take calculated risks that may or may not yield legitimate gains. So for them, and for the situation they're in, this is a gamble they can make. 

Because for them, and for the situation they're in, Beasley isn't much of a gamble at all.

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and Synergy Sports (subscription required) unless otherwise attributed.


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