A week ago, troubled forward Michael Beasley was set to work out for the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. It was an opportunity for the forward to not only be on a championship team, but also to be mentored under coach Gregg Popovich and arguably one of the best power forwards ever, Tim Duncan. While it looked like a great opportunity for a player with not many chances left, the sides will not be joining forces. Instead, it is the Memphis Grizzlies who are to bring Michael Beasley to a squad that makes the most sense for the troubled player. After all, it is Memphis which has become a solid team over the last few years with a roster of misfits.
It is not news that Beasley is a player who had a significant upside. He showed this after his one year at Kansas State, when he averaged 26.2 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg and 1.3 spg. Unfortunately, upon his entry into the pros, his off-the-court antics has received more media attention than his on-court play. His behavior has included being a constant offender of the NBA’s anti-drug policy, charged with loaded firearms in his vehicle, excessive speeding, assault of a fan, as well as sexual assault. It is this kind of behavior that has turned Beasley into a journeyman, having been on three different teams in six years, including the Miami Heat twice.
While there were moments of promise for Beasley last season when he was given a second chance in Miami, in the end, he did not win over coach Erik Spoelstra or LeBron James. As a result, Beasley was sparingly used, particularly during the playoffs, where he only played an average of 5.8 mpg, over a span of only four games. As such, there was a possibility that Beasley would not play again. Despite not getting in trouble last season, he did little to show that his worth outweighed his risk, which is why it was shocking when San Antonio were interested, at least temporarily.
Not surprisingly, San Antonio, a team with little patience for error, elected not to take the Beasley risk. All hope was not lost though, when Beasley recently signed a contract to the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are a team who have proven through the years that they are more than capable of reshaping troubled players. Between Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and James Johnson, they have proven to take players who others are too afraid to put on their books. With Beasley coming to the Grizzlies, he now has a chance, possibly a final one, to change his reputation from a guy who cannot avoid the law to a supplemental player. After all, while Memphis is a team that could use the forward, his time to be an All-Star is likely over.
What Beasley can do is find himself as part of the rotation as a backup small forward to either Tayshaun Prince or Vince Carter, depending on what coach David Joerger wants to do, or as a smaller backup to All-Star Zach Randolph. If given the opportunity, Beasley is a guy who can come off the bench as an efficient scorer inside and from mid-range. The problem for the forward being used will come from his lack of success at the defensive end and rebounding, despite his former success at the latter in college. Due to his one-dimensional play, he will come with risk, particularly for a team with such a defensive identity.
Due to Beasley’s deficiencies, it is not a guarantee that he will even play for the Grizzlies this upcoming season. Training camp is about to begin, with Memphis currently having 21 players on the roster. This means the franchise will have to cut six players in order to get down to the maximum players allotted, 15, prior to the beginning of the season. Because of this, Beasley will have to enter camp with the right mentality. Not only does he need to avoid trouble with the law, but he needs to prove to Joerger that he is worthy of a spot on the roster. The Grizzlies have seven forwards on the roster, including Beasley. As such, Beasley has his work cut out for him, having to rise above at least two or three other forwards, just to remain on the roster, let alone acquiring quality minutes in-game.
Once again, the Memphis Grizzlies are primed to be a tough opponent in the Western Conference. In order to push the team further though, they need a quality to bench to compete with the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. It may be risky, but it makes sense for the Memphis Grizzlies to take a risk on Michael Beasley, just prior to training camp. He may not be a multi-dimensional player, but his offense has the possibility to flourish in Memphis if his head is in the right place. If Beasley does not keep his nose clean and if he is unable to prove his worth on the bench, then the troubled forward may find himself without a team.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey