Michael Beasley had an awesome opportunity in the Heat’s First Round matchup against the Boston Celtics. I’m not talking about the unique experience each Playoff provides. I’m not talking about another opportunity to prove himself that he essentially squandered. I’m talking about the guy he was matched up against for most of the series. Yes, Public Enemy #1 after his antics in Game 2 of our opening round series: the one and only Kevin Garnett.
What could have been so great about Beasley sharing a court and a series with KG? Read on after the Jump to see.
If Michael Beasley takes a good look at Kevin Garnett, he can see an image of the type of player he can be and the type of career he can have. In terms of skillset, there is nothing KG has that Beasley does not. In fact, Beasley could have a higher ceiling on his potential than Garnett. Their rebounding acumen, shooting touch, and ballhandling ability are about the same. Beasley probably has better range than KG though. For a picture of Michael’s full potential, think Charles Barkley in his prime—only 6 inches taller. Oh and get this: according to Wikipedia (and we know it must be true if it’s on that site), Beasley isn’t even left-handed. He’s friggin’ ambidextrous!
Given his skills and potential (even if you disagree with me on him being cut from the same cloth as Barkley or Garnett, have to admit the kid is a special talent—a really special talent), it is certainly easy to understand how everyone from Coach Erik Spoelstra to teammate Dwyane Wade to Heat fans like us are frustrated with Mr. Beasley. The difference between Chuck and KG and Michael? The Hall of Famer turned court jester and the future Hall of Famer had and have motors that won’t quit. The young fella has a motor that won’t seem to start. For this reason, although he will likely fall somewhere in between, it is more likely that Michael Beasley will turn out to be Darko Millicic than Kevin Garnett or the Chuckster. Got any jumper cables?
Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy recently called one of the games in our series with the Boston Celtics. I forget which game it was, (Game 3 maybe?) but I do remember a conversation they were having about Michael Beasley. They were discussing Beasley’s seeming inability to grow into the type of player his talent level would suggest he could be. Ultimately, they began to touch on the very real possibility that Michael’s days as a member of the Miami Heat may be numbered. Van Gundy asked, "How many guys ‘get it’ after their fourth or fifth year in the League?" as to imply the switch could just flip over the next couple of seasons for Beasley. Jackson’s response? "I just don’t believe that happens." Frankly, I agree with Mark Jackson.
The only guys in my recent memory who went from mediocre to great on the time scale Jeff Van Gundy proposes are Tracy McGrady, soon-to-be ex-Miami Heat player Jermaine O’Neal, Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, Rashard Lewis, and Al Harrington. Although all these guys have at least 12 years of NBA experience compared to Beasley’s 2, one or both of the following was true about each of these that is not true in Michael Beasley's case: 1) They were buried on the bench of a good NBA team for at least a year or two OR 2) They showed vast improvement from their rookie season to their second year and continued to improve from there.
McGrady had a coach in Toronto who would not turn him loose until the opt-out year under his rookie contract. By then, T-Mac was frustrated and decided he was getting the heck out of Canada. O’Neal was stuck behind the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant, and Detlef Schrempf in Portland’s rotation. Lest we forget, these two guys were drafted straight out of high school. Gerald Wallace made a one-and-done leap unexpectedly, and could barely get in a game for the Kings behind the likes of Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, Jim Jackson, and even Hedo Turkoglo. None of these guys got to really show their stuff until after leaving the teams that drafted them. The same may become an unfortunate reality for Michael. That said, Beasley differs from O’Neal, McGrady, and Wallace in that he gets playing time. He has played in all but 5 of Miami’s regular season games since entering the League. In those two seasons, Michael has averaged 25 and 30 minutes per game, respectively.
Zach Randolph, like JO, spent time playing behind Sheed in Portland. Once Portland grew tired of Sheed’s act and shipped him out of town, Z-Bo (as they call him in Memphis) began to put up 20-10s on the regular. Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports’ BDL Blog seems to think Michael Beasley could be where Randolph is now—an All Star—in eight years (the number of years it took Randolph to become that All Star). Dwyer mentioned how Zach Randolph has had to overcome some personal issues to get where he is today and that he wonders if the Heat can wait the eight years for Beasley to get it together. I doubt it. Plus, the difference is Randolph was putting up those numbers while he was acting up. 20-10 guys are no longer easy to come by in this League, so the guys that can put up those numbers can get away with a little more (okay, a lot more).
Lewis and Harrington made the prep-to-pro leap, and it only took them a couple of seasons to show enough to let everyone know they were something special. There’s also a third thing that separates these other guys from Michael Beasley. You never had to question their level of commitment to getting better and improving themselves as basketball players. That lack of self-motivation, heart, and pride (the good kind) is becoming a theme, isn’t it?
Michael had a year of Division 1 college experience. You can’t take the same sort of lumps with a guy with his resume and was a consensus Top 2 pick in his Draft Class as you can with a guy who skipped college. Mr. Beasley, the time has come to shape up or ship out.