Michael Beasley can put the basketball in the hoop. He showed that last season, scoring 19.2 points per game while upping his True Shooting Percentage from 50.5 percent in 2009-10 to 51.0 percent. Nevertheless Beasley's overall play and, especially, his efficiency took a hit during his first year with the Timberwolves. Despite increased opportunities, Beasley's WARP fell from 2.3 in his last year with Miami to 0.1 in Minnesota. That's right--Beasley barely cracked replacement level.
The reason for this is due to something that I think has held Beasley back, and probably always will. He simply isn't a smart basketball player. He can score. Nobody questions that. But he just doesn't make good decisions on the court. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Beasley's ability, or lack thereof, to take care of the basketball.
Last season, Beasley wasn't very good at doing so, turning it over on 12.5 percent of his total possessions according to Synergy Sports Technology. It's even worse when you break it down and look at specific situations in which Beasley should really excel. He's a fantastic athlete, whose skillset should allow him to be a threat in transition whenever the Timberwolves want to run, which last season was pretty much every possession. However, the fact that Beasely can't protect the ball renders him a hindrance on the break. Beasley turned it over 19.6 percent of the time in transition in 2010-11, or about one of every five fastbreaks. The preponderance of turnovers resulted in a points per possession (PPP) of .845 for Beasley-- the bottom 10 percent among all NBA players on transition possessions.
Beasley's biggest problem in transition is that he too often makes dumb decisions. He's athletic and he can handle the ball well enough to get by, but those physical skills are worthless when a player makes the wrong decision over and over. Too often, Beasley doesn't seem to be on the same page as his teammates and since these clips are pulled from the latter stages of the season, that is saying something.
Perhaps Beasley doesn't trust his teammates. Perhaps he hasn't learned where they will be in transition. But a noticeable problem Beasley has is that he tends to take one or two dribbles too many and gets way too deep. That leads to a number of offensive fouls, which of course are turnovers. Taking too many dribbles is a pretty good indicator of a player who is slow to make decisions. By the time Beasley chooses to make the pass or go for the score, it is too late and the defense is able to step in and take a charge.
Another area where Beasley struggled taking care of the basketball was in pick-and-roll situations last season. Again, Beasley is a player who should have the physical tools to be successful as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations, however his decision making again lets him down. on pick-and-rolls, Beasley posted a PPP of .717, putting him in the bottom third among all NBA players. Once again, the low PPP was due to his high turnover percentage as coughed it up on 14.2 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions:
The two things that stick out when watching the tape are the same things that stick out when watching Beasley in transition. He doesn't have a great feel of where his teammates are and he takes way too long when trying to decide what to do with the basketball. The result? More bad passes and more offensive fouls.
The question that everyone seems to ask when it comes to Beasley is "will he ever get it?" In my opinion, if he hasn't gotten a solid feel for his teammates or when to make the pass and when to look to score by now, I don't know that he ever will. Beasley strikes me as the type of player who will be content turning it over on more than 15 percent of his possessions if he is scoring 19 points per game. That's not a good thing for Minnesota or any other team Beasley may play for down the line.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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