Michael Beasley, Jamal Crawford and the Players We Want Back in the NBA

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2021

Michael Beasley, Jamal Crawford and the Players We Want Back in the NBA

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    After the NBA's health and safety protocols hammered rosters around the league, a new policy was instituted to ease the burden on teams turning up a number of positive COVID tests.

    "Under the agreement, a team will be allowed to sign a replacement player for each positive COVID-19 case that crops up across its roster," ESPN's Tim Bontemps wrote. "So, if a team has five positive cases of COVID-19, for example, it could sign five replacement players."

    The new rules have already given us a few blasts from the past.

    Lance Stephenson has appeared in three games for the Atlanta Hawks. Wesley Matthews has already played the hero in more than one game for the Milwaukee Bucks. And though he's already been released, Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points in his first two games with the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

    Now, all the call-ups have us feeling nostalgic. If those above can get another shot at the NBA, why can't those below?

Michael Beasley

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    Michael Beasley's recent Twitter activity suggests he's hungry for another opportunity.

    He was seen as recently as the day after Christmas, working out with John Wall, Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers. The same day, he quote tweeted a detractor, insisting he can play off the ball.

    "Played with giannis didn't need the ball, James didn't need the ball, lebron twice didn't get the ball and per 36 says I should've played more in every situation," Beasley wrote. "y'all need help buddy from somebody!!"

    Beasley may be onto something as it relates to those situations. Since the start of the 2015-16 season, he averaged 22.4 points per 75 possessions and shot 37.4 percent from three. There are only 12 players who match or exceed both marks over the same stretch.

    You couldn't fault a team in need of a little offensive boost to power it through an outbreak for going after Beasley. After all, as the man himself said, "Every 10 seconds another person that can't guard me comes into the [world...]."

Mario Chalmers

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    Just over a week ago, two-time NBA champion Mario Chalmers took one step closer to an NBA return, signing a deal to join the Denver Nuggets' G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold.

    The results of that signing have been less than stellar. In two games, Chalmers is 5-of-22 from the field and 1-of-13 from three. He has six assists and six turnovers in 56 minutes.

    Still, Chalmers survived a decade in the NBA thanks to his willingness to play off the ball alongside dominant point forwards and wings, space the floor and be a solid team defender.

    He's 35 years old now and hasn't played in an NBA game since 2018, but Chalmers' experience advantage over the youngsters being signed around the league is immense.

Jamal Crawford

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    Like Beasley, Jamal Crawford has alluded to a desire to return to the league. After Allonzo Trier wondered why Crawford hasn't gotten a 10-day deal, the legendary sixth man wrote, "I'm obviously on some secret list that is black..."

    Whether it's a black list or his way-below-average career true shooting percentage, Crawford has indeed been passed over during this signing spree. But as recently as the 2018-19 season, he showed that he was still capable of random magical moments.

    Shortly after his 39th birthday, Crawford dropped 51 points on 18-of-30 shooting in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

    Now, he's closing in on 42. And while his athleticism is surely not where it was, even in 2018-19, watching Crawford dance around the perimeter and put up high-arching contested jumpers for a team decimated by health and safety protocols would be a treat.

Jimmer Fredette

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    For years, Jimmer Fredette seemed stuck in a sort of basketball purgatory. For his NBA career, he had a box plus/minus that said he was a below-replacement-level player, but he's looked dominant in every other league he's played in.

    He averaged 21.1 in the G League in 2015-16. Over two seasons in Greece, he averaged 23.3 points per 36 minutes and shot 49.5 percent from three. And in four seasons in China, where he came to be known as "The Lonely God," he averaged 34.3 points per game.

    However, Fredette hasn't appeared in the NBA since 2018-19. It's been almost three years, and he was 0-of-13 from three in six appearances that season.

    It might take a leap of faith to expect much different from Jimmer all this time later, but this is a unique moment in NBA history.

Jeremy Lin

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    Getting out of his contract with the Beijing Ducks might be tricky (maybe even prohibitive), but no player in NBA history knows the value of a non-guaranteed deal quite like Jeremy Lin.

    In December 2011, when he signed with the New York Knicks, no one could've predicted what was coming. After dropping in and out of the lineup for the first couple of months of that deal, Linsanity erupted in February.

    From February 4 to March 9, Lin averaged 21.1 points and 8.6 assists for Mike D'Antoni and the New York Knicks. He peaked with a 38-point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on February 10.

    Runs like his are exceptionally rare (1-of-1, really), but Lin showed how a player can turn an opportunity into a career. 

Anthony Randolph

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    Like Lin, Anthony Randolph is already on a team overseas. That makes a "health and safety protocols" call-up beyond unrealistic, but we can still dream.

    Randolph was the No. 14 pick in 2008, long before the NBA had really leaned into the kind of positionless basketball that may have served him well.

    He averaged double figures in 2009-10, but he never had a season with an above-average effective field-goal percentage in the NBA.

    Over the last six seasons in the ACB, though, Randolph has been a versatile, dynamic, floor-spacing big who hits threes and protects the rim. For his overseas career, he's averaged 18.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.2 threes, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 38.2 percent from three.

J.R. Smith

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    J.R. Smith appears to be having plenty of fun as a member of the North Carolina A&T golf team, but he hasn't closed the door on basketball.

    "So since we just giving out 10 days to see who wants to play. I'm still willing and want to play basketball," Smith tweeted. "My phone number hasn't changed."

    Unlike some of the others listed here, Smith already has years of experience playing the role he'd likely be asked to play upon being called up.

    No one's going to want Smith to isolate at the top of the key or run a bunch of pick-and-rolls, but moving off the ball and hoisting up catch-and-shoot three-point attempts should still be within his capabilities.

Isaiah Thomas

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    Isaiah Thomas has already gotten a shot at this version of the lottery. After scoring 42 in a G-League game on December 15, the Lakers signed him to a 10-day deal. He got off to a good start there, scoring 32 points in two games, but he quickly fell out of the rotation and wasn't re-signed after that deal ran.

    According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, though, "Multiple teams are expected to express interest in Thomas..."

    A common thread throughout this slideshow is a lack of defense. And while IT certainly fits that description, he showed in his brief Lakers stint that he still has the ability to be an offensive sparkplug.

    There will certainly be more teams in need of replacement scorers between now and the end of the season, and Thomas can score.