Bad NBA Contract of the Week: Michael Beasley

(In the vein of the highly esteemed David Shoemaker, AKA The Masked Man’s Deadspin column entitled “Dead Wrestler of the Week”, we here at MAMBINO are going to parse our way through the worst contracts the NBA has to offer. Part dedication to the great men who have swindled their way to big checks, part commemoration to GMs that should have been fired and part commentary on the ills of a capitalist society gone wrong, we’ll be here every week with a look at the L’s worst deals)
 
Contract: 3 years, $18 million
Signed by:
Phoenix Suns
Salary this season: $5.7 million
2013 Slash Line: 10.1/3.8/1.5 in 75 games
Expires: 2015
 
If not for a torn ACL, there’d be even money this year on Derrick Rose finishing as a top-5 MVP candidate. The point guard already has the cache of being the 1st overall pick in 2008, that year’s Rookie of the Year and the 2011 MVP award to go along with three All-Star berths and one All-NBA First Team nod. He’s been the best player on two number 1 seeds in the Eastern Conference and—for a short time–arguably the best player at his position. When healthy and at the peak of his powers, Derrick Rose is one of the best six players in the NBA. There’s few who would question that.
 
But it wasn’t always a forgone conclusion. There was once a time where Derrick Rose wasn’t unquestionably the best. Where he would have been the second pick. And that was the debate leading up to the 2008 NBA Draft. Derrick Rose…or Michael Beasley?
 
The buzz that spring had been whether or not the former Memphis Tiger would be selected first over the former Kansas State Wildcat. Both finished as finalists for the John Wooden Players of the Year award, an honor that eventually went to Tyler Hansbrough of UNC. While Beasley finished as a first-team All-American, Rose had the most NCAA postseason success, taking his Tigers to the championship game only to lose to Mario Chalmers and the Kansas Jayhawks. It was obvious that Rose played a more important position in today’s NBA at point guard, but Beasley’s enticing combination of shooting and physicality drew several comparisons to Carmelo Anthony. Believe it or not, this all made for a hotly contested debate.

After months of debate, it was clear that Rose was the choice. For the Miami Heat, second place didn’t seem so bad a consolation prize—a Carmelo Anthony clone was on his way to South Beach to team with Dwyane Wade to bring the Heat back to prominence. At the time, no one really knew just how much of a game changer Rose would be. At the time, few believed that though there was a discernible difference between the two players, Beasley wasn’t far behind D-Rose in regards to potential. At the time, Michael Beasley was a huge asset. Regardless of who the Bulls picked, they’d end up with a physical, dynamically athletic young star who had yet to turn 21. It was a can’t-lose situation.

Michael Beasley’s first season with the Miami Heat didn’t quite match the ground-shaking debut of Derrick Rose in Chicago (whose 41-41 season reached its summit when the Bulls pushed the reigning champion Boston Celtics to an epic seven-game war), but was successful in its own right. Beasley had averaged 13.9 points a game on a very admirable 47% shooting  and 77% from the line. He’d proven to be a somewhat dynamic scorer, capable of 25/10 nights, but generally struggling with a jump shot he was all too happy to take. Beas had proven that he could score on the NBA level, but the forward left a lot to be desired his rookie year. He only grabbed 5.4 boards a night, a shockingly low number considering that in college, he’d fly in mid-court gobbling up rebounds  and looking like Kenneth Faried if he’d lost a ton of ugly tattoo bets. This was all part of a general malaise in which he’d regularly vacillate in his effort and even interest in the game itself, staring blankly off into the rafters during timeouts, as if he were waiting for a black trenchcoated Sting to descend unannounced from the heavens. However, even as Beasley’s focus could come and go at a quarter’s notice, the Heat would have been thrilled if even he cared that infrequently about defense. It wasn’t just that he was regularly outmatched and outsized at the power forward position at 6’8”, 235—it’s that he showed no drive to adequately attempt to guard his position. Off the court, he wasn’t much better. Throughout his first year, Beasley had been fined for various “violations of team policy”, which reading between the lines equaled smoking pot, showing up to practice late and generally being a disruptive dickhead.

Still, all these signs were certainly disconcerting, but age, inexperience and talent weighed heavy on his side. Each excuse dripped with the promise that his NBA game would get cleaned up along with the jumble of tattoos on his body, which looked more like a series of different drunken mistakes…rather than one big drunken mistake.  Beasley had jumped to the NBA as a 19 year-old who had gone from top dog at a Big XII school that rarely competed for tournament berths, let alone Conference titles, to a rookie on a bad team. He’d originally been forecasted as a power forward, but his inability to use his physicality and speed to overwhelm larger defenders seemed as far away as a snowstorm in the Gobi desert. Perhaps as he matured, he’d grow more into body like Carmelo Anthony had in the years after leaving Syracuse. For every foible regarding Beasley, there seemed to be an excuse coming the other way. In an odd twist of fate, his own inability to take responsibility for his actions mirrored everyone’s willingness to amount his rookie struggles to simple mistakes of youth.

The forward’s second season simply wasn’t the step forward one would hope for from a former number 2 overall pick, let alone a player who was questionably going to be picked over the unanimous Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose. He upped his ppg (14.8) and rpg (6.4) averages slightly, but continued to show poor shot selection and not to give any of the fucks about defense.

But even as Beasley continued to disappoint on the court, the focus was generously distracted by the impending free agent class of 2010. His entire tenure in South Beach, the Heat had been offloading contracts to clear cap room for July 2010, when LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, David Lee, Travis Outlaw (just seeing if you were paying attention) and their own Dwyane Wade could become free agents. At the time, the thought was that the Heat could potentially re-sign Wade, another premier free agent and then would have a low-cost superstar signed to the team for years and years to come. However, as it got closer to that July, it was apparent that Beasley’s nearly $5 million dollar cap hold for 2010-2011 potential hindrance to Miami rather than a bargain.

(The massive “what-if” game here is “what if Miami had taken anyone else rather than Beasley?”. The Miami Heat miraculously passed on the following players: Russell Westbrook (4th), Kevin Love (5th), Danilo Gallinari (6th) or Brook Lopez (10th). Westbrook, LeBron and Wade? They’d have to invent new rules to stop those three from scoring 183 points a night)

Just days into the free agent period, the Heat shocked the world by not only re-signing Wade, but also luring Chris Bosh and LeBron James to the team. Just over two years removed from shaking hands with Comissioner David Stern in Madison Square Garden in New York City as the second overall pick, Beasley was shaking hands with Timberwolves GM David Khan at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was traded away to Minnesota to clear cap room and for the measly price of couple of second round draft picks. Even early in his career, Beasley’s seeming bargain of a deal turned into a must-dump proposition.

B-Ez played two underwhelming seasons in Minnesota, first averaging 19.2 points but seeing his ppg fall to 11.5 in 2011-2012. His rebounding was still pitiful for a man of his size and strength (just a hair over 5 rpg) and of course, still did not give your, my or any of the fucks about defense. While Derrick Rose was winning regular season accolades and playoff series, Michael Beasley was posting pictures on Twitter of himself with marijuana in the background. Instead of becoming the next Carmelo Anthony, he had become as valuable to NBA teams as Anthony Mason…circa 2012. The fat Anthony Mason. Not only was he a lazy, underachieving waste of talent, but he was a cancer to the locker room and a distraction towards younger, impressionable teammates.

Needless to say, Minnesota allowed Beasley’s rookie deal to expire that summer, making little to no attempt to re-sign the still 23 year-old forward, no matter his age and tantalizing natural gifts.

But obviously, this is the NBA, land of one thousand chances, and then seventeen chances after that. Thinking that perhaps a change of scenery and a larger load of responsibility could help him blossom, the Phoenix Suns signed Beasley to a surprising 3 year, $18 million dollar contract.

In one of his first games of the season, it seemed that Beasley had taken the contract to heart; he dropped 21 points on the Charlotte Bobcats, with 15 rebounds and 7 assists. However, that may have been B-Ez’s highlight of the season. Barring a massive scoring explosion in the last few games of the year, Beasley will have rewarded Phoenix’s faith in him with the worst professional season of his young career. He’s shooting a career low .405 FG%, .313 3P% (while shooting nearly 2 a game), scoring only 10.1 and grabbing a pathetic 3.8 rebounds a game. Worse, he’s playing just 20.7 minutes per contest, a laughably low amount of minutes considering the Suns are the worst team in the Western Conference. He continues not to give a passing fuck about defending, defense or defensive possessions.

Finishing his fifth season, Michael Beasley is barely a blip on the NBA radar. He’s still not the rebounding threat that many thought he’d be coming out of K-State and is no longer anything resembling even a very good scorer. He’s become a streaky, inefficient volume shooter that doesn’t get to the free throw line, can’t make threes and turns the ball over more than he assists. He cannot register playing time on one of the worst teams in the entire league and has shown zero interest in improving his game or getting out his pick axe and mining the mountain range of talent he has within him. Meanwhile, even as Derrick Rose has sat out the entire year with a knee injury, the Chicago point guard is more a topic of conversation rather than the active NBA player that was drafted immediately after him. Even if the choice today came down to picking an injured $20 million dollar Rose who might never again be a dynamic player or a healthy, $6 million dollar player in Beasley, the choice—unanimously—would be D-Rose.

When he signed an $18 million dollar deal, the Phoenix Suns thought they could potentially be embarking into a massive bargain—after all, if Beasley blossomed on their watch like former troubled stars like Zach Randolph or Jermaine O’Neal, they’d be paying role player money for an All-Star caliber player. Beasley will be just 24 when next season starts, but he’s given absolutely no indication that he’ll be ready to grow up. It’s hard to even call Beasley an underachiever at this point, seeing as his potential evaporated nearly as soon as it showed itself. Just 9 months into his deal, it looks like the Phoenix Suns are paying role player money to an unproductive on and off court problem. Paying this zero any money at all is an extreme overpay.

So for this and the empty bag of fucks you gave about defense, we salute you, Michael Beasley.

Like this post? Check out our other Bad NBA Contracts of the Week:

Desagana Diop

Travis Outlaw

Andris Biedrins

Charlie Villanueva

Drew Gooden

Tyrus Thomas

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