Coming off a second-straight championship, the Miami Heat had a relatively dull off-season.
Two acquisitions were made, reclamation projects that were deemed “low risk/high reward.” Greg Oden was one of those, eventually becoming a starter although, following a poor performance against Roy Hibbert on March 28, it was evident that Oden had a long way to go.
The second project was welcoming back a wayward son, Michael Beasley. The move paid off early, with Beasley scoring points in bunches off the bench, staying out of trouble and saying all the right things. He even dabbled a bit in the lost art of playing defense.
Here are highlights from his breakout game in mid-November against the Milwaukee Bucks:
Things look promising and there was even talk of possibly garnering consideration for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
His stat line over the past 10 Heat games?
29 total minutes, including six DNP-CDs (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision), 3-of-13 shooting for a total of 6 points, as well as totaling 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.
What the hell happened?
The obvious answer is that Beasley has yet to – and likely never will – develop into a total package. His scoring ability is both amazing and erratic, mixing an uncanny ability to find the basket with the tendency to take poor shots. He can drive to the hoop at ease, laying it in with either hand (he’s naturally left-handed) and he has decent range. But he takes wild shots in the painted area, flipping it up carelessly with the hope it’ll fall. As for his long-range shooting, no player in the NBA seems to take more 18 to 20-foot jumpshots than Beasley. These just happen to be the least efficient shot in basketball.
His rebounding is also both impressive and depressing. His leaping ability and timing are phenomenal. His hands are like vices, helping him to snatch boards in traffic that other players (looking at you, Chris Bosh) would mishandle. But he’s too often away from the action, out of position as he watches shots go up.
As for his defense, Beasley’s athletic ability makes up for many deficiencies. His strong hands can disrupt passing lanes or he can reach in and knock the ball loose – if he’s in position. But his rotations are sloppy and it seems that he simply loses his place on the floor, forgets where he is and where he’s supposed to be.
And that has put him in Head Coach Erik Spoelstra’s doghouse.
In recent games, Udonis Haslem has established himself as a starter, James Jones has provided shooting off the bench and Rashard Lewis has found the floor again. Even newly-acquired big man Justin Hamilton saw some time in a loss against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Meanwhile, Beasley simply waits.
It’s a testament to his growing maturity, a sentence no one would ever have imagined being written about Beasley. To his credit, he has still said the right things – or at least no-things – about his decreased role.
But at times when the Heat offense bogs down, when players run off screen after screen and find themselves with less than 5 seconds on the shot clock, it seems like Beasley could be a vital contributor. With the exception of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, no other player on the roster can create his own shot as easily as Beasley. In tight games against the Grizzlies, Brooklyn Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers, that ability might have come in handy.
Those games share two things in common: all of them were tight losses and Beasley didn’t play a single minute in each of them.
Spoelstra’s job isn’t easy, juggling inactive and injured players like a lineup made out of chainsaws. But inserting Beasley – and his ability to score a lot and quickly – could make the difference in those close games.
With the top seed in the Eastern Conference and possibly Miami’s postseason on the line, maybe the experiment needs to be revisited once more.