Michael Beasley’s third go-round with the Miami Heat, the team that drafted him second overall in 2008, was born out of necessity after the team lost Chris Bosh for the season and they were desperate for some scoring punch off the bench.
With precious few games left in the schedule, his familiarity with the system was also a big plus and he was already in Miami working out after finishing the season in China with the Shanghai Sharks, where he averaged 27.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.92 steals in 37 games.
Beasley was first signed to a 10-day contract by the Heat on February 26 and then re-signed to a second 10-day contract on March 8 after making an immediate impact with the team. He became the third player to go from a 10-day contract to a guaranteed contract for the duration of the season after Tyler Johnson and Henry Walker.
He scored in double-figures in a third of his games with the Heat but he showed much more than an ability to make baskets. Playing with a purpose on both ends of the floor, Beasley would often play out of position for the shorthanded Heat but he never wavered on his commitment to try his hardest. He took three charges, at times played center against the opposing team’s big men, and willingly took a back seat on offense while playing alongside Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside in order to do some of the dirty work for the team.
"I’m older and I’m different in some ways and the same in some," said Beasley near the end of the season on what brought about his new approach to the game. "I’m still that fun-loving guy that likes to joke, but now I understand what’s needed of me and the level of focus I need to bring to every game and every practice. Just knowing what’s asked of me instead of just going out there and trying to put the ball in the bucket. I’m just trying to be more then one-dimensional."
Though it often did not translate directly into the box score or in advanced statistics, Beasley gave the team valuable minutes while trying to integrate with the team on-the-fly even as his role fluctuated over time.
"We’ve spent a lot of time developing him the first two years and all those summers," said Erik Spoelstra back in March. "Last year I thought he made great progress. It was a different team, a veteran-laden team but he really made strides in terms of his approach, his work and in his improved game."
Beasley finished the season averaging 8.8 points on 43.4 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 21.0 minutes.
Beasley’s ability to create his own shot and score from virtually any spot on the floor are well-known, as is his craftiness for getting to the rim and finishing with style.
But his newfound commitment on defense, particularly man-to-man, and to crash the boards was eye-opening. Instead of being one step too slow closing out on a defender or blowing an assignment as he had shown in seasons past with Miami, Beasley brought much more to the table for his team this time around.
"He’s more versatile now on both ends of the court," said Spoelstra. "So now you’re seeing another step in that direction. He just has to continue to work."
WHERE HE NEEDS TO IMPROVE
Now 26, it’s been several years since Beasley was the young Kansas State product with so much promise who was expected to play a big role with the Heat. Recast as a specialist in limited minutes off the bench, Beasley would have his good games and then disappear in others. He’s most comfortable having the green light to shoot like he did in China, and he struggled at times against NBA competition when trying to do a little bit of everything on offense.
While his efforts to appease his coaches and teammates with his all-around play was praiseworthy, sometimes his game was hindered by too much thinking and not enough reacting off his instincts and talent where he could let the game come to him naturally.
For someone with gifted offensive skills, Beasley hardly got to the free throw line during his time with the Heat and also shot poorly from 3-point range with just 23.5 percent accuracy, a big drop-off from his career average of 34.3 percent.
Back in his familiar starting role with free reign on offense, Beasley played all 48 minutes of the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia 76ers and displayed his extensive offensive repertoire with a game-high 34 points while shooting 12-27 from the field and going 10-11 from the free throw line. He came up just short of a triple double with season-highs of 11 rebounds and nine assists, to go along with two blocks and two steals.
The Heat hold a $1.27 million team option for Beasley next season and it remains to be seen if there will another reunion. He showed growth and a willingness to learn and be coached but much depends on how the offseason shapes up for the Heat and if there will be enough roster spots to go around.
It’s clear that the Heat front office remains enamored of their former No. 2 pick and still believe they can get the most out of his unique skill set. With a more defined role and a training camp under his belt, Beasley might have a fighting chance to stick around.