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Miami Heat Should Pursue Michael Beasley on Training Camp Contract

September 4th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

Update (10/26): The Heat did indeed sign Michael Beasley to a make-good, training camp contract on September 11 and Beasley has made the opening night roster. His contract remains fully non-guaranteed until January 10, which essentially means he gets paid by the day. 

Who is Michael Beasley? Can he help a team win basketball games?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

***

The Phoenix Suns would tell you rather emphatically that he’s toxic.

They’ll point to his struggles off the court.

Beasley was arrested in August for suspicion of drug possession after an officer detected the smell of marijuana coming from his vehicle, the third of three serious legal issues this year alone for the troubled forward who has yet to be cleared in a sexual assault case being investigated by Scottsdale police. In January, a woman accused Beasley and another man of assaulting her in Beasley’s home. No one has been charged. Just two weeks after the claim was made, police cited Beasley for several offenses including speeding, driving on a suspended Arizona license, driving without a vehicle license plate, and driving with an expired registration. Beasley was reportedly traveling 71 miles per hour in a 45-MPH zone at 1:10 am in a Mercedes which had a gun with one bullet loaded inside the chamber.

They’ll point to his lack of production on the court.

Beasley’s production has declined in each of his five seasons in the league. He had his worst year yet for the Suns last season, scoring just 10.1 points per game on 40% shooting as the team’s projected number one scoring option and putting out virtually no effort on defense. His struggles individually contributed largely to the failures of the team as a whole, causing the Suns to spiral to the fourth worst record in the league, leading to the firing of head coach Alvin Gentry midway through the year, and when things had completely fallen apart by year’s end, resulting in the firing of General Manager Lance Blanks.

The Beasley free agent signing was a disaster for the Suns franchise. They waived him yesterday, less than 14 months after he signed his three-year, $18.0 million contract with a promise to turn his life around. He was set to make $6.0 million in 2013-14 and $6.3 million in 2014-15, although only $3.0 million was guaranteed in the latter year.

In conjunction with his release, Beasley agreed to a $7.0 million buyout. He will be paid $4.7 million of that total by the Suns this season, and an additional $778K for each of the next three seasons.

Suns President Lon Babby issued a statement upon Beasley’s release that read, “The Suns were devoted to Michael Beasley’s success in Phoenix. However, it is essential that we demand the highest standards of personal and professional conduct as we develop a championship culture. Today’s action reflects our commitment to those standards.”

New General Manager Ryan McDonough added, “We have high standards for all of our players. We expect them to represent the team and the community in a positive manner both on and off the court.”

It was the equivalent of the Suns telling Beasley directly “We don’t want you anywhere near our franchise anymore.”

Beasley has never lived up to his selection as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, either personally or professionally, nor has he lived up to the $28.0 million he’s guaranteed himself thus far into his NBA career. In this context, it would appear as if the logical choice would be for him to simply fade away from the league in a cloud of marijuana smoke.

***

Of course, the natural progression after Beasley’s release from the Suns was for fans to ask what’s next. More importantly, it opened the door for Heat fans to ask what’s next, especially with the team recently releasing one of their most potent outside scorers. After all, Mike Miller was the player that they traded Beasley to sign.

Some Heat fans believe that the 24-year-old has more to offer. The Heat, for their part, have yet to comment.

But it’s a wonderful idea.

Beasley had $9.0 million of guaranteed money remaining on his contract from a team that was always going to release him anyway. He was bought out for $7.0 million. He agreed to surrender $2.0 million just so that he could front-load his release, thus enabling more time to negotiate a contract with a team of his choosing, even though he knew full well that any new contract would likely only pay him the $1.0 million minimum salary.

That’s exactly the contract the Heat should offer – a league minimum contract. But they should make it a fully non-guaranteed training camp contract.

Beasley had to know that he was giving up a guaranteed $2.0 million, and would be replacing it with no more than $1.0 million. He had to know that to even get that $1.0 million, he would need to show an extreme dedication to turning his life around. He did it anyway.

These are not the actions of a man who is ready to fade into the background. This is a man who recognizes that he will be given another chance, but that it may well be the last one he gets. He’s not in it for the money. He’s seeking redemption. These are the actions of a desperate man who understands his predicament, and is planning to work hard to fight for his place in this league. This Michael Beasley deserves a shot.

The Heat are in position to give it to him.

The dynamics of this team have changed drastically since Beasley was traded to Minnesota in the summer of 2010 for only a couple of second round draft picks. The Heat are far from the struggling team that was coming off a franchise-worst 15-win season in 2007-08, lost out on Derrick Rose in the lottery and reluctantly picked Beasley ahead of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert.

When the Heat first took in Beasley, they were desperate. They’re now a fledgling dynasty pursuing a third straight championship. This is a team that doesn’t need him to win. Beasley would be returning as a no-risk reclamation project.

This time around, he’d have no expectations. There’d be no marijuana-inducing pressure for him to live up to his draft selection. No pressure for him to live up to a curiously-large contract. No temptation to seek relief from the frustrations of constant losing. No pressure on him to carry the scoring load.

With the leadership of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and a team full of veterans, Beasley couldn’t possibly be presented with a better opportunity to get it together.

It is not all that hard to envision a role for him if it works out. With Miller gone, Miami could use another wing scorer to step in during those games when Wade is a little nicked up or James needs a breather. His ability to shoot and put the ball on the floor would provide the Heat with an alternative to a bench full of spot-up shooters. He could become the much-coveted primary scorer from off the bench, the player who allows the second unit to stay competitive and thus provide greater rest for James and Wade. It is not even all that hard to envision him as a potential frontcourt replacement for Udonis Haslem, who continues to see time on the court for reasons other than what his play warrants.

He may have been highly overrated at the time of the draft, but he is still a highly-skilled offensive talent.

***

The critics will nonetheless point to a myriad reasons why it won’t work for Beasley.

They’ll say there’s no reason to believe Beasley will conform this time, especially if the minutes are so scarce that he believes he’s receiving little reward for his compliance. They’ll say that he’s a troubled individual who presents too much of a distraction for a team that has its sights on cementing its spot in history. They’ll say he doesn’t fit the culture.

They’ll say that he’s too lazy to tweak his game, to adjust his score-first mentality, to learn to rebound and defend, to accept any role given. They’ll say the urge toward childishness, toward driving fast cars and getting high, will ultimately be too strong to overcome. They’ll say it’s just a matter of time until he relapses, as he’s done over and over again.

Maybe they’re right. Or maybe he simply doesn’t have the talent anymore. Maybe he has an over-hyped offensive skill-set that is a lot easier to defend at the NBA level. Maybe, even if he does conform, he will provide nothing more than the type of low-efficiency offense this team has no use for.

It all doesn’t matter.

It’s not about whether or not it will work. It’s about taking something for nothing.

An unguaranteed minimum salary contract takes care of all of all of these issues.

It is the most humbling of NBA contracts. It pays him absolutely nothing until the start of the regular season, and makes him a daily laborer thereafter. It pays him $6,043.67 for each day he is retained, issued to him in arrears every two weeks, unless and until the Heat unilaterally decide to release him.

Not until January 10 would his salary become guaranteed for the rest of the season. And if he does make it through the season, he’d earn a grand total of $1,027,424. The contract would cost the Heat just $884,293 (the league would pick up the rest), and just $3,095,026 when including the tax.

***

Beasley remains an enigma. And there’s still enough of a stigma attached to his reputation that even his staunchest supporters are cautiously taking a wait-and-see approach.

Can he help a team win basketball games? That remains to be seen. He is unlikely to have a major impact, particularly during the playoffs when it matters most, whether or not he makes the transition from distraction to contributor. But that’s not the point.

The point is that there’s simply no risk. None at all.

But the upside is very real.

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