Patrick J: Lots of Wolves activity of late: Beasley’s gone, Roy’s in, and the fun has just begun.Good or no good?
Andy G: Before I dig into last night’s wave of Blazers-Wolves free agency warfare, I’ll say my piece about de boi Mike Beasley.
He had his flaws, but he was one of my favorite Wolves in recent team history. (That is not saying much. I know this.) On teams majorly devoid of talent, Beas had it, and sometimes would show it off. The dude is 6’8” with a ridiculous vertical and yet has one of the smoothest pull-up jumpers in the league. While his consistency remains an issue and his defensive awareness will always be a weakness, Beasley can keep his team in a game by burying lots of jumpers. And I find that enjoyable to watch. He’s already been a second option on middle-seed playoff teams, so any notion that he’s a “losing player” is patently wrong. Two seasons ago, he was given the Kobe role in the Rambis Triangle. It didn’t work for team success, but that had as much to do with the bad coach and terrible teammates as it did anything Beasley was doing wrong. On last year’s team, things were never quite right. He began the season as a starter and his jumpshot completely left him in the season’s opening weeks. Then he got hurt. Then he came back and played well, going ballistic a time or two in some victories (Houston comes to mind.) All the while he was playing the hardest, most focused defense we had seen from him. (Granted, this basically made him an “average” defender, but still.) Then the trade rumors came in HOT and Beas checked out. He’s not blameless here. He’s actually, you know, the one to blame since he is paid millions to try hard and he stopped trying hard. But when they openly shopped him he clearly took offense and began doing the lazy chucker things. What was funny about it is that he’d get hot sometimes, often pulling up from 26 feet and just cashing J’s. But overall, he was done and the team was done with him. The laziest criticism of Beasley is calling him a black hole, or a selfish player. No, he’s a scorer. There is a difference. If you’ve ever watched a real black hole play (think Kris Humphries in a Golden Gopher uniform) you know the difference. Beas is a mostly willing and sometimes gifted passer. I wouldn’t call it a strength but to go out of one’s way to call it a weakness is to serve a false narrative.
Beas was overrated as a college prospect due to his stats. He’s now underrated as a professional player, in part due to stats. On the Suns, another rebuilding team, he’ll likely remain depended upon for isolation scoring. Or maybe Gentry can find ways to use him as a screener. Hard to say. What do you think (about any of this)?
Patrick J: I agree with all of this: Beasley is a misunderstood player of whom people’s expectations have been either far too high or low. The perception that Beasley is a failure is shortsighted. He’s only 23, has a ton of potential, and most importantly, he’s already shown he can thrive in the NBA, unlike many “upside” guys who get drafted in the lottery for their length and athleticism more than their basketball ability. I mean, Beas has already been a 20 ppg scorer (at least if you round 19.2 generously, like I just did), and as you mentioned, he’s been a second option on a solid playoff team. He has all the limitations you mention and more. You can’t tell for sure if his worth ethic is NBA level, or if his drug use and mental lapses are indicators of deeper psychological issues that will haunt him for his whole career. Those same questions could’ve been asked, and probably still could, about Zach Randolph, one of the heroes of the 2010-11 NBA season. Not even a 1st round pick after one season at Michigan State, Z-Bo showed he could own in the NBA–after two seasons of limited playing time, Randolph averaged 20 ppg in his 3rd season at age 22, as Beasley did in 2010-11–but in his time with Portland, he was forever the butt of weed/strip joint/stripper/gun/entourage jokes. That changed when he got a change of scenery in Memphis in 2009-10 and especially in 2010-11, when he led the Grizz’ Cinderella run to the playoffs and was one of the league’s top 2 power forwards. I have no idea whether a(nother) change of scenery will do the same for Beasley, but taking a longer view on him seems appropriate. It’s fun to live in the moment on message boards and blogs, but the dude likely has another ten years in the league to figure it out, and he isn’t likely to hit his prime for another 3-4 years–around the time of his contract year in Phoenix. So there’s that. The last thing I’ll say about Beasley is about a characteristic I think is one of his best and most overlooked: his loyalty and devotion to his teammates and friends. Beasley has always had his teammates’ back in confrontations on and off the court, and I remember several instances last year, even after he’d checked out on Adelman, when he was the only Wolves player who joined scrums with teammates. Make all the ballhog jokes you want, but I’d never question Mike Beasley’s willingness to defend his teammates, and that’s one of the most noble qualities a player can have. I hope he kills it in Phoenix.
Andy G: That’s well put. My only fan regret from last season (aside from injuries which were beyond anyone’s control) is that Rick played Wes over Beasley at the three. It made no sense to the outsiders’ perspective. Unless something was seriously wrong behind the scenes, the Wolves left wins on the table and let Mike rot on the bench for large chunks of games. Mike on an off night is better than Wes playing his best. Oh well, he should get another solid opportunity in Phoenix.
Moving on… BRANDON ROY! It’s only six years later, but I’m glad to have him. The latest reports are that the second year, of two, is non guaranteed or at least contingent on his knees’ ability to withstand a basketball game. I tweeted this last night, but I’d be ecstatic if Roy could give this team the same awesome 22 minutes per game that Bobby Jackson gave the 2002 Kings. I know some things about degenerative knees, but I’m not a doctor and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night (sorry for that). To the best of my knowledge, he’s got the worst stage of arthritis, which cannot be cured or improved, but only managed for pain control. By playing he is increasing the chances that he’ll need bilateral knee replacement surgery. Only there’s already a 100 percent chance that he’ll need it. So there’s that. Play ball if you can, Brandon. You only live once. I’d guess we’ll see Roy shelved a time or two, ala Barea’s groin injury, as he struggles to fight the pain. But if he can play 50+ games in each of the next two seasons, and help win some critical games in the playoff push, it’s a good idea. Plus, he’s a pro’s pro, and I think that wears off on everybody else.
Patrick J: Roy was always one of my favorite players in Portland. Part of it was the tragedy of Roy/Foye. Righting that wrong means a lot symbolically and emotionally, and I’ll be glad we did it Roy never makes a significant contribution due to injury and even though rectifying McHale’s mistakes for symbolic reasons ranks far below the current regime’s need to fix them to keep their jobs. Beyond the pure satisfaction of signing Roy because he’s Roy, the guy could play. I mean, play. He was the perfect combination of leadership, professionalism, ability, and cool. He set the pace for everyone else and ran an offense as well as any other combo I’ve seen–and that includes Wade. Roy was like James Harden, except better. A lot of Minnesota fans remember and appreciate how great Roy was before his injuries, but around the league he was quickly written off and forgotten. If we get 70 percent of the Roy we knew, we still have a solid SG. If we get more than that, it’d be a coup for Kahn or Adelman or whomever makes decisions at 600 1st Ave nowadays. And you’re right: even if Roy’s knees keep him out more than we can afford, his influence on the team could be huge–especially if it helps Love and Rubio transition from kids who’re enjoying the spotlight to vets who lead and win.
Enough Roy for now. What comes next? Batum? Shved? JESUS SHUTTLESWORTH? Is Kahn getting a little overzealous for shooting guards, like was for point guards in Summer ‘08?
Andy G: Hollinger wrote a snarky post today that calls into question whether Kahn can actually execute both the Roy and Batum contracts given the current cap situation. JOHN is working with his information while the Wolves work with theirs. I actually trust that it’s a NON-ISSUE and it doesn’t really matter anyway because the only way we’re getting Batum is if we sign and trade for him. Which probably means D-Thrill out the door. Which definitely would suck. The only Williams for Batum permutation (did I use that word correctly?) that I would support is the one that brings back Meyers Leonard. Something like D-Thrill, Barea, and Wes for Batum and Leonard. Portland would only do that if it valued Williams high and thought Wes was salvageable and in need of a fresh start.
Ray Allen would be nice. O.J. Mayo would be nice. I don’t know how any of this works once we sign Batum and Roy, though. I’d guess things play out where Batum is matched, and we push hard for either Shved, Mayo or Courtney Lee. Stat folks would prefer Lee. Basketball folks would prefer Mayo. (I kid…) FRAN FRASCHILLA! would prefer the Russian.
For now, I guess we (continue to) wait until July 11, when ink starts to spill on some of these ridiculous contacts (read: Jeff Green for $40 Million!) In the case of the Batum deal, we’ll find out on July 14, three days later and Bastille Day, whether he’s a Wolf or a Blazer. Any parting thoughts?
Patrick J: After a season of Wes and Martell, all shooting guards sound good. I’m glad the Wolves brass is aggressively addressing the wing positions, especially after disappointing us for the final 55 games of last season after it was plainly obvious that Wes Johnson should never start an NBA game under any condition. The guy who intrigues me most is Alexey Shved. His Euro numbers are solid and I’ve been intrigued since 2010 when I saw him comped on an NBA Draft website as “a white Penny Hardaway” (paraphrasing; and apologies, but I can’t remember which site it was). Signing Shved would be a nice low risk/decent reward investment itself, and a nice hedge on Roy’s health to boot.
That’s all for now. Let’s hope our next INBOX is to mull over how Batum will fare in Minny and not to assess the damage of any bad new Kahntracts.