I have no shame in admitting that Michael Beasley was probably my favorite player on the Houston Rockets last season. At times, he looked like the team’s second best player. I tweeted sometime late in the year, when the “tank or playoffs?” debate was raging, that I wanted the Rockets to make the postseason for no other reason than to ensure four more games of watching Beasley. I was only partially kidding. Yes, I had given up on the year, but there were times when I’d flip away to a different channel unless Beasley was playing. I found him that entertaining.
On Thursday, Houston traded Beasley to the Milwaukee Bucks for guard Tyler Ennis in a deal that made perfect sense, despite the fact that I and everyone else I know hated it. Beasley was the only other player on the team, besides Harden, who could create his own shot. I noticed, along with many of you, that he seemed to be, strangely, the only player to whom Harden at times, would willingly defer. With his mid-range shooting, ball handling, and ability to punish smaller defenders on the block, the Beasley-Harden pick and roll was a glimpse of hope the team seemed to stumble upon accidentally, and didn’t utilize nearly enough (because, of course…). Before the Ryan Anderson signing, many of us hoped that combination might be a weapon heading into next season that a better tactician might have been able to utilize.
But Michael Beasley is gone and with him is the dream that the Houston Rockets would be the team to benefit from him finally realizing the immense potential that made him the second overall pick in the draft. Beasley had an overall net rating of -10.7 last season. With him on the court, opponents scored 113.3 points per 100 possessions; they outscored the Rockets by 9.6 points per 100 possessions. And as I outlined in the summer, Beasley was a member of some of the Rockets’ worst heavy-minute lineups. Despite bringing joy to the world, Beasley probably wasn’t any good last season. There’s a strong, almost irrefutable, empirical case to be made that he was absolutely killing the team whenever he stepped foot on the court.
Tyler Ennis slides in at backup point guard on a team that doesn’t even have a plausible starting point guard option. He hasn’t shown anything so far in his career, but was the 18th pick in the draft, and is still just 22 years old. Ennis shot 45% overall last season, but just 33% on 3’s. From deep, he has shot 30% overall for his career. At point guard, that simply won’t cut it. And among point guards, Ennis ranked 43rd in defensive RPM, just ahead of Ty Lawson. So no hidden value there, for the time being. (He had an overall RPM of -3.26, just ahead of Spencer Dinwiddie).
Still, after unearthing the gem that was Kyle Lowry, I’ve vowed to never sleep on Daryl Morey ever again with regard to these low risk moves. It’s completely possible that Ennis goes the way of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn, other notable fliers the Rockets invested time upon over the years who turned out to amount to nothing. But when the price was Beasley, a player who unfortunately by the numbers probably still wasn’t very good, at the position of greatest need for the team, the motivation behind the deal is easy to understand. And that’s a strange place to be in, because Beasley was an absolute joy to watch in his lone season here. I really wish it could have worked out.