Can Michael Beasley be a long term fit with the Houston Rockets?

  • Understandably, people here are excited, at least those who are left.  My Twitter followers and readers here want to know if Michael Beasley has finally turned the corner, cashing in on the potential that made him the #2 overall pick in a draft class where he was deemed the consensus top  talent for much of the year, prior to a March push by Derrick Rose.  They want to know if he can be a long term fit.  People on the outside, reading all of this, are laughing.  A bad player going to a bad team, chucking up a bunch of bad shots, and getting hot for a stretch, they’re thinking – nothing has changed.  But ours is a natural human reaction.  Exceptionalism lends to the belief that our situation is unique, that something within Beasley has changed, or something about the Rockets has aided the transformation.  We want desperately to believe that we’ve struck gold in acquiring, for the mere minimum, a player who was once considered one of the most dominant freshman scorers of his era.  What else do we have?  This team is going nowhere and hasn’t given those of us watching much to cheer about.  Thus, the mind wanders towards the future and the construction of a new team.  What do we need, what parts do we already have?

  • To begin, setting the efficiency aside, the scoring production isn’t really anything new.  Beasley, at the very least, has established competency as a scorer in this league.  That was never a question.  And this isn’t the case of hoping some project former top draft pick with no basketball skills and selected just based on potential has finally turned the corner.  Michael Beasley is a polished basketball player, and a finished product on the offensive side of the ball.  Look no further than the fundamentals in the post, the soft finishes, the deft ball handling, and the footwork out of the triple threat.  Beasley is the total package as a scorer.
  • As I tweeted yesterday, the Rockets’ offense basically amounts to four guys standing around while James Harden dribbles the basketball, either in isolation, or around a pick set by one of said four other guys.  Harden then either shoots, drives, or gives it to one of those four guys, usually for a three-pointer, or in a spot where they typically have nowhere to go.  Beasley has worked so well here because, where those other guys have proven completely incapable to do anything in those Harden-induced spots, he’s been able to do what he’s done his whole life – create his own shot.  You’ll see spots where Harden has nowhere to go and the end result is the team dumping the ball off to Beasley in the block to just attack.  You’ll see Beasley either roll to the rim off a Harden bounce pass off the pick and roll, or create in space after Harden draws his defender.  Where the other guys on the team don’t have the tools to make anything happen, Beasley does.  Last night, before the Rockets completely fell apart, we saw glimpses of what could develop into a dangerous weapon in the Beasley/Harden pick and roll.  That’s something to keep an eye on going forward.
  • It’s not just about creating your own shot off of your own dribble.  The other guys on the team, for the most part, aren’t fluid offensive players.  When a guy like Trevor Ariza or Patrick Beverley catches a Harden pass, they have basically two options due to their skill deficiencies: they can shoot the ball, or they can pump fake and drive in a straight line into traffic.  This really limits what you can do with your offense because the only advantage ever created is off the initial Harden pass.  A guy like Beasley, as we’ve seen, can catch the ball, and then create something new in that spot, changing directions if necessary.  That was kind of the hope with Ty Lawson: that he and Harden would be able to attack the defense with multiple drives off the same play.  It never happened.
  • As an aside, many, including myself, noted the Rockets offense looked its best these past two games with Motiejunas and Beasley playing in tandem at the 4-5 spots.  The floor looked balanced and spaced, leading many to ponder upon the ramifications in regards to Dwight Howard’s impending free agency.  More on this later.
  • I noted earlier last week that in contrast with his apparent attitude towards fellow guards, such as Jeremy Lin and Ty Lawson, James Harden  seems to trust frontcourt playmakers like Beasley and the Josh Smith of last season.  This was a puzzling observation, but also instructive in the process of constructing this team.  I’d venture to guess the cause here is that the point guards have similar duties as Harden and operate from roughly the same spots.  Therefore, in Harden’s mind, if the play calls for a guard-involved duty, he thinks he might as well just do it himself.  He gives the ball to forwards as a bail out, off the pick and roll, or in recognition of something different from what he’s attempting to do.
  • You see all these headlines from non-Rockets outlets since the signing, poking fun at Beasley’s production and prolific totals in shot attempts.  The jabs are curious in that such a player is basically what the Rockets have needed.  They don’t have anyone else other than Harden who is capable of shooting unless it’s a wide open 3.
  • This all begs the question as to whether Beasley can start, or at the least, be a long term fit on this team.  As Paul McGuire noted, Beasley is shooting midrange jumpers at an almost unprecedented clip thus far.  That, with complete certainty, will change, and his efficiency will dip back down to career norms.  More troubling though is that thus far, with Beasley on the court, opponents are boasting an offensive rating of 125.3.  With Beasley off the floor, it is a 107.9 rating, for a net difference of 17.4.  This is small sample size theater, but the figure is alarming.  While listed at 6’9 throughout his Kansas tenure, and in some official capacity in his NBA bios, Beasley actually looks closer to 6’7.  He’s small for the position, and historically, hasn’t shown much interest at the defensive end of the court during his previous stops.  However, that net rating is surprising because, from the eye test, Beasley has looked active and engaged thus far.  I said earlier that the offense looked to flow its best during the stints of the Motiejunas-Beasley pairing.  But such a lineup could potentially be a recipe for disaster at the other end.  We’d have to see.  Right now, there simply is not enough evidence that Michael Beasley can be a starting power forward solution on a team with title aspirations.  Unlike others commentators though, I wouldn’t rule it out completely, especially in this new age of small-ball with a premium upon multi-dimensional players.  On the one hand, you’re almost holding your breath for him to come down to earth like Josh Smith did after last season.  On the other hand, the Rockets fancied themselves title contenders with freaking Terrence Jones as their starter at the position.  Why not Beasley then, who is in another stratosphere offensively, and at worst, just as bad defensively.  If they have the right players at the other spots, and most importantly, an actual infrastructure, I don’t see why not.
  • Lastly, the major theme I’ve been writing about for some time has pertained to constructing a team around James Harden.  Most recently, I’ve theorized that the Rockets’ goal, while a seemingly defeatist perspective, should be to become “good enough”, or second best.  In essence, I’ve argued that instead of trading James Harden and rebuilding in some vain attempt at recreating the Warriors, they should continue building around Harden’s isolation talents, beefing up their defense, and hoping to get back to last year’s “second best” levels.  If you stick around long enough, you can get lucky with the right ankle injury, as history has shown.  To that end, Beasley fits this scheme as a one on one scorer who, thus far, meshes well with Harden’s game.  I’m really looking forward to seeing more of that pick and roll.
  • The odds are that Beasley’s production will regress drastically, and that defensively, his competency levels will not be deemed adequate for the starting job.  But at the very least, if even just chipping in 10 points per game off the bench, this should be a good piece for next season, at the bargain price of the league minimum.  At the very least, we have a reason to keep watching closely for the remainder of this season.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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