With off-court issues possibly surpassing Michael Beasley’s game-performance shortcomings on the disappointment scale, plus a new personnel regime in place, the 24-year-old forward’s days with Phoenix Suns came to an end Tuesday.
The Suns and Beasley reached an agreement to terminate the contract of the troubled power forward.
The move on Tuesday will cost the franchise $7 million, a $2 million savings from what Beasley would have been due had he simply been waived. It also represents a significant reduction in what the hit on the team’s salary cap would have been.
Although Beasley’s in-game results did little to impress the new bosses, his actions away from the arena were hard to ignore.
Since January, Beasley has piled up three brushes with local law enforcement: one incident of speeding, investigation of an alleged sexual assault and suspicion of marijuana possession.
“We have high standards for all of our players,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said in a statement released by the team. “We expect them to represent the team and the community in a positive manner both on and off the court.”
Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said: “It is essential 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.”
A little more than a year ago, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 NBA draft was brought to town in hopes he could become a much-needed scoring threat. A Suns team whose big swing at a playoff berth whiffed due in large part to a lack of offensive closer was desperate to add a player with at least some scoring chops.
“I guess, from a talent standpoint, it made sense,” an advance scout employed by another NBA team said of bringing in Beasley. “The money wasn’t all that prohibitive, really, and the guy has had some big moments scoring the ball. All of the peripheral stuff … I can’t say anything about that. I just watch what he does on the floor — things that go beyond the numbers.”
What types of things?
“Well, for the most part … he’s just not engaged all that often away from the ball,” the scout said. “At both ends, his focus drifts and it just kills what his team is trying to accomplish … whether it’s rotating or closing out in time or with effort on defense or making a hard cut on offense. He has the physical tools to succeed but rarely plays with a fire. Even when he has the ball, you can see that in how he tries to finish at the basket.”
Right, when Beasley did bypass his flat jumper for a trip to the rim, his reluctance to play to contact resulted in a disappointingly low number of free-throw attempts. He averaged 1.6 attempts in 20 minutes per game, and had 13 games of 20-plus minutes that ended with zero trips to the line.
Beasley also scored 20 or more points 12 times last season, those scattered salvos demonstrating the frustration potential he brings to a franchise. On the season, Beasley averaged 10 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
His roller-coaster days of solid moments and abject disasters are underscored, a bit, by how poorly he played at US Airways Center. Beasley, who made a mediocre 44 percent of his field-goal attempts on the road, clicked on only 36 percent of his shots at home. Overall, he also shot worse as a starter than he did coming off the bench.
“A lot of people like to say he’s been kind of out of position as a small forward,” the scout said. “There’s probably something to that — he certainly has more trouble defensively on the perimeter. He’s no beast trying to guard power forwards, either, but a lot guys near his size play the four spot.”
A check of combine numbers reminds us that Beasley – listed at 6-foot-10 – was measured at an even 6-7 (without shoes) coming out of Kansas State. Sure, he may have gotten taller since then, and everyone plays with shoes, but there are some NBA power forwards working at a height similar to Beasley’s.
“It’s just a matter of how you approach the game,” the scout said, “and what people have convinced you is the best way for you to succeed. I’m sure a lot of coaches think he’s too short for the four.
“All of those things might be interesting to bat around, but the real issue is him not really doing himself any favors – regardless of the position – with how he approaches the game.”