There Aint No Such Thing as a Free Beasley

The Houston Rockets are having a rough time. After a deep playoff run, they're barely holding the 8th spot in the playoffs. In a surprise move, they acquired Michael Beasley. Michael Beasley has had an impressive NBA career of being terrible. It's possible to view picking up Beasley as a "low-risk" move with upside. Unfortunately, I'm more inclined to see it as a bad decision.

I've seen a few people label the Beasley move as a "low-risk" move. And I've also seen the argument that he has upside. This seems to stem from a few facts:

  • Beasley was very good in college.
  • Beasley signed a minimum deal, given his seniority in the NBA and the number of games left, I think this will be around $330,000, or 0.5% of the salary cap.
  • Beasley is twenty-seven, and six feet nine. Eye test wise, he rules!
  • Given the last two points, he has upside.

And again, if the argument is going for low risk, low cost, high upside, it's kind of there. Kind of. Except I don't like any of these arguments.

Beasley was very good in college

Beasley being good in college doesn't matter. Sorry. Beasley played 1,041 minutes for Kansas State. He played very well. However, college ball is not the same as the NBA. The three-point line is different. The competition is different. While college stats and NBA stats do relate, the NBA is just a different game. Now, Beasley has played 10,675 NBA minutes (before this season) and in that time, he's been awful. He's racked up under (over?) negative ten wins for his career! His best season was in Miami in 2014 where he was bad instead of god-awful. It's worth noting in 2015 he regressed to terrible. The only "positive" thing I can say about his play is, he fouls less than an average wing. In sports talent is fleeting. What a player did even a few seasons ago can be meaningless. Going back eight seasons to college numbers? Sorry, no.

Beasley is cheap

Now, I can't debate this. Beasley's contract is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. However, some costs aren't monetary. Signing Beasley eats a roster spot up. Signing Beasley means there are other players the Rockets aren't hiring or giving tryouts. Additionally, every minute Beasley gets on the court, from the front office or coaching staff is a minute another player doesn't get. Morey himself has talked about the value of NBA roster spots because of their scarcity! The monetary cost for Beasley is small. But the other costs aren't insignificant. And a team like the Rockets, who only have two years left of James Harden and may be losing Howard, shouldn't be wasting time.

Beasley has upside

The upside argument is a classic one. And it is based on this logic. Player A had all the tools in the world to succeed at basketball, but he was miscoached/mismanaged/etc. Our team will unlock his potential and win! The research says this is possible but much harder than teams think. The Rockets themselves have already fired a head coach this season. The Rockets have Josh Smith and Corey Brewer on their team. These are two players with "loads of talent" that have been bad players. And the Rockets turned them into ... oh, they're still bad players. Signing a player like Beasley is trying to prove the value of your coaching staff or system. Except an easier model is just to sign already productive players! Any NBA team should have a list of undrafted players or players in foreign leagues that look productive. And then if they want to give them a ten-day contract for low-risk, they can. Most teams seem to equate upside with "was drafted high." (pun intended) and time and time again it seems to bite them.

Beasley is Beasley

I didn't expect Beasley to do me a solid so quickly. In his first game with the Rockets, he managed to put up an awful game in just over four minutes of play. He shot one for five and got a personal foul. He did get an assist, so there's that. In a game the Rockets lost by 8, our numbers said he was worth ... -4 points. In his first game, Beasley took only a few minutes from another player on the Rockets and it was costly. And in a season the Rockets are hoping to make the playoffs, it seems silly to make dumb decisions like this. In the grand scheme, this decision is minor compared to the other problems the Rockets have. Still, it's another straw on the Rockets' back in a season where they're very close to breaking.