Troubled forward Michael Beasley is now a free agent after the Suns bought him out on Tuesday following yet another marijuana related incident. This time it was an arrest for marijuana possession while driving his car in Arizona.
The Suns swallowed their pride, giving up on "Super-Cool Bees" (worst nickname ever, but he thought it was a good idea to tattoo it across his back) just one year into a 3 year, $18 million deal he inked last summer. Beasley will be paid $7 million as part of a buyout agreement, and now becomes a free agent.
Beasley, only 24 years old, is now at a crossroads in terms of his NBA future. Just five years ago Beasley was drafted 2nd overall by the Miami Heat, and was so good during his one season at Kansas State (26.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG) that some people questioned whether he would be drafted ahead of future MVP Derrick Rose. Just over two years ago Beasley put the finishing touches on his most impressive NBA campaign, averaging 19.2 PPG and 5.6 RPG during his first season in Minnesota. It appeared that he was coming into his own. While his impact would never be comparable with a guy like Rose, he looked like the type of player that could develop into one of the elite scorers in the league. Even if that's all he could do.
Less than three years later, and still four months shy of his 25th birthday, he may be out of the league for good.
For a team to roll the dice on Beasley, it will take the right situation. It's unlikely any team with playoff aspirations would invite such a potential distraction into camp — but what about a rebuilding team? A team that doesn't figure to contend this season, and may be able to risk Beasley flaming out in return for the chance that he finally puts it all together. Or at the very least puts the marijuana cigarettes down long enough to become a productive NBA player.
In case you haven't caught on — the team I'm talking about is the Boston Celtics. Should the Celts take a chance and use their 15th roster spot on Beasley? Let's break it down the only way I know how — with an old fashion pros and cons list.
Pro #1: He'll be cheap
- Beasley is already locked into making $4.67 million for this coming season, and $2.33 million next year. He's also flirting with being out of the league for good. Therefore it's unlikely that he commands more than the veterans minimum of $1.03 million for a player with five years service time. Considering Beasley's current pariah status the Celtics could probably get a team option for year 2 thrown in, giving them a risk-free way to keep Beasley is he does in fact bounce back this year.
Pro #2: At his best, the man can score
- Last season was an unmitigated disaster for Beasley as he averaged career lows in points (10.1), rebounds (3.8) and minutes played (20.7). However, as recently as 2010-11 Beasley appeared to be ready to break out, averaging nearly 20 points per game in Minnesota. For his career Beasley has a 15.0 PER — slightly above league average — this despite the fact that he has never really had his head screwed on straight. The bottom line is that Beasley's issues are weed related. Sure it's a major red flag that he can't keep his head out of his ass long enough to salvage his career, but it's hard to imagine that potential is completely gone by the age of 24.
Pro #3: It's a calculated risk
- The Boston Celtics are not going to be very good in 2013-14. Therefore, this season is about acquiring new assets and developing the ones already in house. Picking up Beasley when his value is at it's lowest could burn the Celtics if he once again proves to be too immature to handle life in the NBA. But if that happens, what do they really lose? $1 million and the 15th roster spot. Not exactly a franchise crippling mistake. But what if he can re-capture his 2010-11 form? They'd have a legitimate NBA scorer under contract for league minimum that they could either keep as part of their future, or, deal for assets around the trade deadline. In some ways Beasley reminds me of Greg Oden earlier this summer. Their challenges are very different (Beasley: weed; Oden: injuries) but both of them are worth a shot as lottery tickets.
Ok, now for the not so good.
Con #1: He likes weed. Have I already mentioned that?
- When I say that Beasley really enjoys marijuana, I feel like that I may be understating that. In 2008 he got caught smoking weed at the NBA transition program. Literally his first NBA experience. In July, 2009 he posted a picture of himself with what looked like a bag of weed in the background. He spent a month in rehab for "stress related issues" later that summer. In 2011 Beasley was pulled over in Minnesota and the cops found marijuana in the car, he said it was his friends. And then just a month ago, the same thing happened, this time in Arizona. Four separate issues in five years, all revolving around marijuana. The question now becomes — is there any hope of getting him off the ganja? You'd like to think there is for the sake of his basketball future (not even saying that he can't smoke..he just can't be high 24/7 to the point where he's getting caught annually), but he's become such a repeat offender that he may be destined for a life of misdemeanors.
Con #2: His basketball IQ is terrible
- His shot selection seemingly gets worse every season, and last year in Phoenix he was benched repeatedly for not having his head in the game. Some of this could very well be related to his drug issues, as Beasley is the anti-thesis of KG in terms of both intensity and basketball smarts. He's also seen a troubling decline since his rookie year in terms of his production. His PERs since entering the league – 17.2, 16.1, 15.5, 13.0, 10.8 — show a troubling development. While most players improve as they enter their mid-to-late-20s, Beasley appears to be getting worse. Not ideal.
Con #3: He's an awful defender
- According to Synergy Sports, a site that charts every possession of the NBA season, Beasley has posted the following defensive numbers since 2009-10 (Beasley's 2nd season and the furthest Synergy goes back): 2009-10: 0.93 points-per-play allowed (299th best in the NBA, league average is 0.84 ppp allowed), 2010-11: 0.94 ppp allowed (332nd), 2011-12: 0.87 ppp allowed (256th), 2012-13: 0.91 ppp allowed (307th). He's been consistently terrible with no signs of improvement, and without KG here to possibly teach him some things, it's unlikely that that number would get better in Boston. Even at his best, Beasley is a player that impacts only one end of the floor.
Con #4: The Celtics salary situation
- While Beasley could probably be had for the league minimum, that may not be cheap enough for the Celtics. As of right now the Celts are sitting at $72.3 million in salary obligations for their 15 man roster, approximately $600,000 above the league's $71.7 million luxury tax threshold. Newly acquired forward Donte Greene can be waived, which would save the Celtics just over a million dollars, and send them below the tax threshold. However, by signing Beasley, that number would once again jump over the tax barrier, creating a host of problems for the Celtics as they fall into the dreaded "luxury tax repeater penalty" club. The Celtics may rather give the final spot to an undrafted rookie who's salary would be closer to $500,000, or just not fill the 15th spot on the team.
Con #5: Beasley may be cool with sitting out
- Beasley has made $33 million (including the buyout) in his pro career, loves weed, and now can smoke as much as he wants without anyone getting upset with him. He seriously may decide to hang up the shoes and just get high and go to Taco Bell every night.
Beasley is young, talented offensively, and should be desperate to salvage his NBA career. But that's not enough for me, and shouldn't be enough for the Celtics. 90% of the time I'd look the other way when it comes to weed related issues. After all, it's freaking weed, not heroin. But when a player seemingly puts his desire to get high above all else in his life, that's an enormous red flag. Throw in the fact that Beasley is a scorer only, and this becomes a risk better suited for another NBA franchise. That being said, I can see far worse ways to spend the 15th roster spot during what will be a rebuilding season. I was all for going after Oden, and Beasley in many ways is a similar signing. A lottery ticket that could help change the future of the franchise if it works out, and that can easily be thrown in the trash if it doesn't. So if Ainge rolls the dice..I won't be disappointed. But I also won't be holding my breath for it to work out.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 9/04/2013 01:58:00 PM Tweet