Will Michael Beasley Make the 2014-2015 Miami Heat Roster?

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Standing nearly seven feet tall, he’s a small forward who played last season for the Miami Heat. He happens to be a solid mid-range shooter capable of knocking down shots from beyond the arc. He can take the ball to the basket and is able to finish with either hand because he’s ambidextrous. He also happens to be coming off the highest shooting campaign of his NBA career.

No, this isn’t four-time MVP and recent Heat free agent departure LeBron James. Lets call him “Player X.”

Although this description sounds like someone capable of making an impact on an NBA roster, let it sink in that Player X missed 27 games in 2013-2014, not because of injury, but because his coach didn’t believe his presence on the court could help the team. This despite Miami, while having assembled the oldest team in the league, being in need of fresh young legs and the player in question being the second youngest player on the team last season.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Player X is currently a free agent, with no team committed to his future.

That’s not to say Player X has no future in the NBA. He’s still a young 25-year old.

Consider, during his six professional seasons, Player X has logged a combined 10,171 minutes. Last season alone, the NBA’s league leader in minutes played was Kevin Durant, the reigning-MVP who topped out at 3,122 minutes. Over the course of the past four seasons, Durant has been on the hardwood for 11,825 minutes, which eclipses Player X’s six-year mark by a little more than 16 percent. Plus, this player happens to be a little more than three months younger than Durant.

In college, each of them was honored with National Player of the Year awards. Like Durant, he was selected second overall in the NBA Draft, one year after the now four-time scoring champion.

If you’ve followed the Heat for the past handful of years it should be no problem figuring out the player whose name has yet to be mentioned. Some would even call it easy.

It might “B Easy” to say that Michael Beasley hasn’t lived up to the billing of his once-thought NBA stardom. What is a little more difficult to put a finger on is why the Kansas State phenom with seemingly limitless talent hasn’t blossomed into the type of player some considered taking ahead of former MVP Derrick Rose. Had he developed differently or been taken ahead of top pick Rose back in 2008, the past six seasons of Heat and NBA basketball as we now know it could have looked entirely different.

However, for this dissection, the why may not be as important as the how. The question for Miami now is a glaring – how does Beasley fit with the current pieces in place and how will he help the team moving forward?

This current 12-man incarnation of the Heat is certainly younger than last year but that doesn’t make them better. James leaving guarantees that. It also means the Heat will need to get more scoring from other places, that more pieces will need to be utilized to replace the 2,902 minutes worth of league-leading efficiency left behind.

Miami has multiple flaws and while the additions of Luol Deng, Danny Granger, and Josh McRoberts in free agency will make Miami a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference, the Heat just lost their leader in some important offensive categories, including points (2,089) and assists (488).

Deng, Granger and McRoberts, not to be confused with the old big three, combined for 2,010 points and 557 assists in 5,419 minutes of action last season.

Due to the fact that Miami’s primary ball handler will no longer be around this season, more responsibility will be given to other players to create for themselves and their teammates. Here’s where Michael Beasley can step in.

Will Michael Beasley Make the 2014-2015 Miami Heat Roster?

In the 55 regular season games Beasley did take part in last season, his per-36 minute averages looked like this: 18.9 points and 1.8 assists, according to NBA.com. The efficiency – 49.9 percent from the field – happened to be a career high. Also, Beasley knocked down 38.9 percent of his shots from downtown. That number is noteworthy because it happened to be better than everyone on the squad except James Jones, who nailed a remarkable 51.9 percent of his long-range bombs. It was better than even Ray Allen, the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made (2,973), who hit on 37.5 percent of his tries. Additionally, on a team devoid of rebounding prowess, Beasley corralled 7.1 missed shots per 36 minutes when given the chance to play.

Also worth recognizing is that the off-the-court troubles, which led from a rehab stint in 2009 to an arrest and ultimate release from the Phoenix Suns in 2013, did not follow him to Miami during his second stint with the franchise. It’s no secret that, before rejoining the Heat, Beasley was a jokester and didn’t always behave in a professional manner. That wasn’t going to be acceptable this time around.

For an organization that prides itself on professionalism as much as the Heat organization does, silly, embarrassing and unwanted antics from Beasley would not be tolerated. So, when he signed in Miami last summer, his contract was non-guaranteed. Now, Beasley’s troubles seem to be a thing of the past. His behavior has not been an issue and despite not getting much playing time last season he has never openly complained.

Due to salary cap restrictions that limit the Heat to offering only the league minimum to fill out their final three roster spots, if the Heat want Beasley back he would have to accept playing for less money than he might receive elsewhere.

On July 26, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders tweeted that there appears to be a market for Beasley’s services.

“Several teams have expressed interest in free agent Michael Beasley. Teams like the efficiency and maturity he showed last season in Miami.”

It’s no surprise that a big reason Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra has hesitated playing Beasley is because he is a defensive liability. Since Pat Riley came down south to coach the team in 1995, Miami has prided itself on being known as a strong defensive team.

Watching the 2013-2014 Heat team would have made anyone question where that philosophy went. Miami ranked closer toward the bottom of the league in field goal percentage allowed (45.7%) than it did toward the top; only four teams allowed more three-pointers per game than Miami (8.5); and the paint looked more like a welcome mat to opposing teams, rather than a place to think twice about entering. So, it’s not as though Beasley playing less helped Miami become a strong defensive team.

The other end of the court is not a problem for Beasley. Putting the ball in the basket is what he does best. As NBA.com shows, twice in Beasley’s career has he averaged more than 20 points a game per 36 minutes and he has never averaged below 17.6 points per 36 minutes. His offense has to be a key ingredient that continues to wet Miami’s thirsting appetite.

When questioned about Beasley’s performance after the conclusion of the season, Spoelstra did not hesitate to praise Beasley.

“This was a big success season for him as well,” the second longest tenured head coach in the league said. “It’s not easy breaking into a Championship rotation.”

If the Heat plan on utilizing Beasley for his offensive strengths, then he should have a spot on the roster. His familiarity with the coaching staff and most of the players would be an advantage an outside free agent wouldn’t hold. However, if Spoelstra has no intention of adding Beasley to the rotation then he should not be back in a Heat uniform for 2014-2015. It does not make sense to hold onto a player who won’t help the team this upcoming season or beyond.

Miami’s decision should be easy.

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Michael Kaufman holds a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida and has covered sports on multiple levels. Michael started his career covering sports in 2010 at WRUF Sportsradio 850, an on-campus student radio station offering him the opportunity to focus on all things Gator. Michael began delving into print media in 2013, working as a Sports Writer for InsideTheU, covering football, basketball and baseball at the University of Miami. Michael is a Miami native and loves everything the city has to offer, in particular the sports teams and the vibrant culture.