As most NBA fans know, the Phoenix Suns waived forward Michael Beasley on Tuesday after an arrest for marijuana possession in early August. Extremely talented but equally self-destructive, this is simply the latest in a series of incidents that Beasley has been involved with since high school. Despite this, some team will inevitably take a chance on Beasley due to his ability as an offensive weapon at either forward position. Given their need for size and scoring at small forward, Beasley’s age, and his imminent affordability due to the reasons for his release, one must consider whether Beasley would make sense as the newest addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As stated above, “B-Easy’s” talent as a basketball player is almost without peer. The 2007 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game MVP, his one season of college basketball at Kansas State, was one of the finest seasons by a freshman forward in NCAA history, averaging 26.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.6 blocks in 31.5 minutes per game. Beasley’s percentages were excellent as well as he had a .532 field goal percentage while shooting .774 from the line and .379 from beyond the arc. These numbers are superior to those posted by Carmelo Anthony and arguably Kevin Durant (a close friend of Beasley’s) during their lone college seasons and earned Beasley several honors, including First Team All-American, USBWA Freshman of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year, and finalist for Naismith Player of the Year (won by Tyler Hansbrough). With his size, athleticism, shooting range, rebounding, and ability to score both inside and out, Beasley was ranked by ESPN’s Chad Ford as the second best player in the 2008 draft, and experts everywhere debated who should be the first overall pick between Beasley and Derrick Rose. Former ESPN Insider John Hollinger was even higher on Beasley’s potential. Beasley’s rating of 19.31 on Hollinger’s draft rater is the second highest rating since 2002, behind only Anthony Davis. Hollinger even pointed out that teams must consider taking Beasley ahead of Rose because he was simply more talented than the young point guard. Taken second overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat, Beasley made the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and has averaged 19.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in his career. At just 24 years old, one could argue that Beasley is still several years from his peak.
The risks involving Beasley’s character are well documented. After attending six high schools, Beasley’s reputation for being immature and unfocused was already gaining traction. While there were not incidents during his one year at Kansas State, the same cannot be said for his time in the NBA.. On September 3, 2008 while at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, Beasley was involved in an incident allegedly involving marijuana along with Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur. While there were never any drug-relations brought up against him. Beasley was fined $50,000 by the NBA after confessing that he had snuck out of the room when police arrived. On August 4, 2009, Beasley checked into a Houston rehabilitation center after posting pictures of himself on Twitter with what seems to be marijuana in the background. On July 26, 2011, Beasley was driving in a suburb of Minnesota when he was pulled over for speeding. After the officer involved detected a strong odor of marijuana, he allegedly located a plastic bag containing the drub under the front passenger seat. Despite denying it was his, Beasley was fined and ticketed. On August 4, 2011 Beasley was participating in a streetball game at Dyckman Park in the Inwood neighborhood of New York City against good friend Kevin Durant. After being heckled by a fan throughout the game, Beasley and the fan argued and exchanged words while a member of Durant’s team was shooting free throws. The argument ended with Beasley using his open hand to push the fan’s face away. Finally on August 6 of this year, Beasley was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession in Scottsdale, Arizona. This was just one year into a three year deal Beasley had signed with the Phoenix Suns, who had hired a counselor for the sole purpose of working and traveling with Beasley. This was enough for the forward to be waived by the Suns, with President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby that the action showed the team’s commitment to the “highest standards of personal and professional conduct.”
In addition to his off the court issues, Beasley has had several basketball-related concerns. His effort and focus in practice is notoriously poor. During games, Beasley often loses focus, particularly on the defensive end, and has an incredibly poor assist rate for a small forward. Beasley has also developed a rather inefficient shot selection, often taking long two’s and other contested jumpers when he is more than capable of driving to the basket. Finally, Beasley is one of the few players whose rebounding has not translated from his college playing days, bottoming out with an average of 3.8 boards in just over twenty minutes of play last year.
So What’s the Verdict?
While Beasley’s talent is undeniable, and he has a reputation as a fundamentally good person despite his off the court issues, the Cleveland Cavaliers should probably take a pass on bringing him in for several reasons. First, while Beasley is capable of playing small forward, he is typically much better both offensively and defensively at power forward, a position the Cavaliers are more than set at with Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett. More importantly, both Chris Grant and Mike Brown put a strong emphasis on culture as a part of their team’s development. Not only does Beasley not fit that culture, the Cavaliers do not have a strong roster of veterans, ala the San Antonio Spurts or Miami Heat, to help keep Beasley focused and in check. In short, the signing of Michael Beasley could hinder the Cavaliers from achieving their two most important goals, the continued development of their young core, and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Therefore, Beasley is simply not the right fit in Cleveland.