Michael Beasley has fit in with the 2-time defending champion a lot better than many predicted. What was once a petulant husk of a former college star, is now an engaged and eager-to-please pupil of a champion. How did Beasley integrate so seamlessly with the Heat when all evidence pointed to another opportunity missed?
I’m man enough to admit it: I did not like the Miami Heat’s acquisition of Michael Beasley when I first heard of it. Could you blame me? The same problems that existed in his first tenure with the Miami Heat were still prevalent three years later, following stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns. Both were short-lived on account of a failure to adjust on-the-court and off-court issues stemming from marijuana possession.
Beasley came riding into Miami coming off the worst season of his five-year career after recording a PER of 10.8 and an NBA-worst -2.5 offensive win shares. The Suns were garnering only 87 points per 100 possessions when Beasley was on the floor as his role fluctuated between starter and reserve, before the team waived him on account of the arrest.
Recalling how Beasley fit in with the Heat in his first tenure leads one to believe he wouldn’t be able to fit in this time when there’s real pressure as the Heat look to 3-peat. Even if the Heat did offer him a non-guaranteed deal, you almost wished they would have used it to sign a perimeter defender.
Two months later, however, I’m eating crow; a big heaping plate of it.
Beasley has exceeded expectations already. He’s not only scoring efficiently (currently sporting a 63 percent effective field goal percentage), but he’s contributing in the aspects of the game that were seemingly absent in his first five years as a professional.
Defense and moving the ball have suddenly become a part of Beasley’s game. I’m guessing this is because he wants to hold a job, since defense and ball movement is the only way to earn consistent minutes on this team.
His PER of 23.6 is good enough for 14th in the league, second best on the Heat, and he’s finding out how to play within the rhythm of the offense, rather than forcing up attempts or wandering when the ball isn’t in his hands; two persistent problems on the offensive end during his first two years with Miami.
He has started out the year shooting 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc on 10 attempts.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of the early season from Beasley is how he’s been able to integrate himself into a Heat offense that gets him open shots, rather than having the ball stick due to indecisiveness. Although he’s only averaging half-an-assist per game, he’s still making over 16 passes per contest, per SportVu, in the 15 minutes he’s averaging.
It’s all coming with the offense, and it’s also making the Heat that much more dangerous.
Opponents previously just hoped to play the Heat even when LeBron James was on the court, and then try to make a surge when he was off. That may not be possible anymore, though, with Beasley helping to lead one of the deepest bench units in the league.
Excluding James Jones, five of the top six players in net rating (the disparity between offensive and defensive rating) come off the bench. Beasley, Norris Cole, Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen and Ray Allen all have a net rating of at least 10.
The Heat’s bench is now building leads, instead of just sustaining them. For a three-game stretch during the Heat’s current winning streak, it was the bench that closed out contests that were still in doubt.