The Sad Saga of Michael Beasley

Beasley Heat

What the hell happened to Michael Beasley? Since he just re-signed with the Miami Heat after being released due to an arrest, it seems like an appropriate time to ask that question. After four stops around the league, the former No. 2 is now considered an NBA journeyman after just five years.

His career has been so perplexing because he seemed like the obvious choice to be drafted No. 2 after Derrick Rose (some even argued for him to be chosen first) in the 2008 NBA Draft. During his freshman year at Kansas State, he was dominant. He averaged 26 points and 14 rebounds per game and became an overnight sensation in the basketball world.

This type of success wasn't a fluke for Beasley, either. Growing up, he played with future NBA players Kevin Durant and Nolan Smith as well as several other collegiate players, more than holding his own against top competition. Although he didn't attend as many high schools as he did tattoo parlors, he certainly made his rounds in attending a total of six.

As a senior, he averaged almost 30 points to go along with 16 rebounds. ESPN ranked him the No. 8 overall recruit, and even went as far as ranking him No. 1.

Why didn't Beasley ever make a substantial mark in the NBA? His collegiate career would point to him becoming an NBA stud; he could score and rebound with the best of them.

Many attribute his lack of success to the fact that he is, what some would consider to be, a moron (but we’ll get to that later). Let’s face it: there are plenty of morons in the NBA, and many of them are really good players. Thankfully, for many dumb players across the league, intelligence isn't necessarily a necessity.

What we can most attribute Beasley’s failures to is a how his style of play translated to the NBA, along with expectations that were way too high.

Beasley was dominating the college game in ways that would certainly not translate to the main stage.

To fully grasp how these expectations may have changed people’s perceptions about what type of player Beasley would become, you need to look at the 2006-07 college basketball season. Kevin Durant, similarly to Beasley, was tearing up the NCAA, averaging 26 and 11. With the NBA’s “One-and-Done” rule only one year old, basketball fans latched onto him as the next NBA phenom.

This obviously has proven to be true: Kevin Durant is a beast. Although there were questions about his strength and body type, scouts knew his position — small forward — and they knew he could score at will in a variety of ways, both from deep, mid-range, and from in close. It was more of a question of when Durant would physically mature, not if.

Since Beasley was next to take the game by storm in 2007-08, people instantly anointed him as the next great “one-and-done” product. What they failed to take into account was that Beasley was dominating the college game in ways that would certainly not translate to the main stage.

First off, at Kansas State Beasley was listed at 6’10”. He is actually only slightly taller than 6’8”. That was his main problem. It was easy for him to dominate on the low block and on the boards as a 6’8” player in college. Furthermore, when he would extend and show off his perimeter skills, he was being guarded by tall and sluggish big men who had no chance.

Not enough people took this into account. He was a phenomenal player, but he spent his one year at college playing a position at which he would never be able to excel in the NBA. He would have been much better off being an over-sized small forward in college rather than a dominant but undersized power forward.

Another problem was what team drafted him: the Miami Heat, led by superstar Dwyane Wade. Another consequence of Beasley being falsely labeled as a power forward was that you could team him up with a premier perimeter player. That’s what Pat Riley and the Miami Heat tried to do with him and Wade.

The Heat failed to recognize how Beasley had had so much success in college: being the alpha dog. His Kansas State team was decent, but he was far and away their best player. On most offensive possessions, he was the focal point.

With the Heat, this would not be the case. Playing off the ball, he never could get into an offensive rhythm and figure out how to get buckets in the NBA. He was out of position and was never able to be the focal point of an offense.

The Heat tried to play Beasley at the 4. They expected him to be able to rebound at a high rate and score on the low block. In reality, the Heat should have realized Beasley was more suited for a small forward role because he was not able to do score or rebound effectively against NBA big men. His best games were when he was able to get some spacing on the wing and showcase his versatility.

He didn’t get the chance to prove himself as much because of Dwyane Wade either. He was best suited as a wing player, but the Heat didn’t draft Beasley so they could have another outside scoring threat; they incorrectly figured he could provide inside star power to go along with Wade’s outside star power. As you could imagine, being out of position and not getting enough touches was not a recipe for success.

Beasley did not help himself either. As soon as David Stern called out his name during the draft, he wasted no time in making dumb decisions.

The first instance that brings us back to the “moron” reference earlier was during the NBA’s annual Rookie Transition Program. There, Beasley, along with fellow rookies Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur, were under suspicion of marijuana use. Beasley was the only one not kicked out, but he was later fined.

Over the course of the next few years, he ran into some more legal troubles which were drug-related. He was stopped on suspicion of marijuana possession by police, and he also violated the NBA’s drug policy twice during his first stint in Miami. These led him to actually check into a rehab facility at one point.

As soon as David Stern called out his name during the draft, Beasley wasted no time in making dumb decisions.

Still, even with all these issues, Beasley was still able to land a lucrative $18 million contract from the Phoenix Suns last summer. Even after a disappointing season where he barely averaged over 10 points per game, he still seemed to be in good standing.

That was until a few weeks ago, when he was arrested for marijuana possession in Arizona. The Suns promptly released him, figuring he was unfixable. He had salvaged his career and earned a chance to finally become the player he should have been right out of the draft; he was on a bad team in Phoenix that didn’t have many scorers. Unfortunately, he could not get his priorities straight once again.

Now the Miami Heat have stepped forward, signing him to a non-guaranteed one-year deal. It’s the ultimate no-lose situation: the Heat don’t need Beasley at all. Any positive contribution they get from him is gravy.

So now is the last chance for Michael Beasley. He has failed as an over-hyped No. 2 overall pick, he has failed to perform on bad teams, and he has failed to be a true professional, both on and off the court. Learning and taking in lessons from stars like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Ray Allen is now the only way he will succeed in the NBA.

Frankly, I think he still has a shot. There is no pressure on him. Not the pressure of being the second pick, playing out of position, carrying a bad team, or living up to a big contract. He just has to play basketball. He’ll have the chance to go against the best competition day-in and day-out in practice, and he will be forced to take full advantage of his skill-set if he wants to make the team.

My prediction: he will make the Heat and he will end up being a contributor because he has so much talent, and with the group he now has around him, I find it unlikely he doesn't have at least some success. Either way, Michael Beasley has the raw talent. This year will finally tell us, once-and-for-all, if he has anything more.

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