20120414_jel_aj5_415_standard_1349067986_400

Michael Beasley dominated in his one and only year in college. At Kanas State, Beasley scored on anyone and everyone that tried to check him. That offensive ability is what led to the Miami Heat taking him with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

However, after his first four years in the NBA, he still hasn’t figured things out. Beasley spent his first two years in Miami playing power forward and the last two seasons in Minnesota as a small forward, but things didn’t really click for him in either place or at either position.

In reviewing some of his plays, it is pretty clear why he has struggled. A huge part of his poor play is on him and his decision-making. However, I believe the position he was put in, particularly in Minnesota, has played a large part as well.

As I wrote when Beasley was signed, he is not the guy many think he is. He is not a go-to offensive player in the traditional sense of someone you can give the ball to and expect a bucket or a foul. He’s not a great creator of offense from the perimeter. For a small forward, Beasley is not a particularly good ball-handler, nor is he a good passer.

That being said, the talent that made him a high pick is still there. He can still put points on the board and when he heats up, he is tough to slow down. The task the Suns are faced with is putting Beasley in position to play to his strengths without him trying to do too much.

ISOLATION

Beasley’s isolation ability separates him from the other wings on the roster, and this is an area that he certainly can help Phoenix’s offense. However, to feature him in this role would be a mistake.

Here’s an example of a positive isolation play by Beasley (all screen caps taken from footage from MySynergySports.com).

Iso_good_1_medium

In this play we see Beasley isolated in the corner. He has the entire left side of the court with which to work since the other four Wolves and their defenders were on the other side.

Iso_good_2_medium

Beasley gives his defender a jab-step then uses his long strides to blow by his defender. As you can see, the only defender in position to help is Indiana’s diminutive point guard Darren Collison.

Iso_good_3_medium

At this point Beasley has already beaten his man. He sweeps in and uses his length to finish over the help defense. Great play by Beasley, two points for Minnesota.

However, when you give the ball to Beasley in isolation, prepare for plenty of derps as well. Here’s a play showing a shot that Beasley takes far too often.

Iso_bad_1_medium

There are a few things that needed to be pointed out here. First, take a look at the shot clock: there are still 20 seconds left, so no need to hurry. Second, by my count all five Nuggets are back on defense, while Beasley only has two of his teammates up the court with him.

Iso_bad_2_medium

Instead of waiting for his teammates to get down the court to set up the offense, Beasley decides to take it himself. Making things even worse, he decides to drive to his right - where the help defense is – instead of going left – where the court is wide open. His drive gets shut down by two Nuggets, and the other three are also hanging around the paint. That means Beasley has three teammates wide open around the perimeter. So what does he do?

Iso_bad_3_medium

He takes a step-back, fade-away, 19-foot jump shot. Clank.

This is a recurring problem with Beasley. First, he does not move the ball nearly as often as he should. Second, he settles for far too many jump shots. Part of that is the lack of quickness and advanced ball-handling; he just can’t beat his man off the dribble all that often. And I don’t know if it’s an ego thing or poor basketball IQ, but it seems to me Beasley thinks those are good shots.

POST

This is the area the Suns will want to get Beasley plenty of touches this year. Beasley can be a mismatch while posting up, either operating out of the high post or taking advantage of his size down on the block.

Here's an example of a play where Beasley gets the ball in the high post.

Hi-post_1_w_pen_medium

Beasley sets up at the elbow and receives the pass from J.J. Barea, who runs to the corner to give Beasley space to go to work on Corey Brewer.

Hi-post_2_medium

Beasley turns and faces up on Brewer. He has a size and strength advantage here, and with an explosive first step and long strides he gets past him. The other Nuggets defenders have to respect the shooting ability of Anthony Tolliver and Martell Webster on the weak side and are too slow in rotating to help out their teammate.

Hi-post_3_medium

Again, Beasley uses his length and explosiveness to go up and finish over the top of the defense for two points.

As a former power forward, Beasley can also be effective down on the block. Here's a smart play by Beasley down low.

Lo-post_1_w_pen_medium

Beasley has a big mismatch here with shooting guard Courtney Lee trying to check him in the post. Houston's Kyle Lowry is in no man's land defensively right now, looking to double but not coming hard or fully committing.

Lo-post_2_medium

Beasley recognizes the mismatch and backs the smaller Lee down. Lowry left Ricky Rubio and is coming down to double, while Samuel Dalembert is waiting in the lane. But neither are in position to stop a quick move by Beasley.

Lo-post_3_medium

Beasley uses a drop step and spins baseline, away from the defense. He then elevates over the top and finishes at the basket. Lowry is too late to stop him and by going baseline he takes Dalembert out of the play. It's a one-on-one with Lee, and the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is just too small to stop Beasley.

CUT

With Beasley's length, athleticism and shooting touch he can be very effective slashing off the ball. The last play I have here is Beasley cutting in for an easy two points.

Cut_1_medium

This play starts after an offensive rebound by the Timberwolves. The Minnesota player has the ball in the corner and is surveying the court. Beasley realizes A) that his defender is playing off of him and B) that the middle of the floor is wide open. Beasley cuts hard to the paint and gives his teammate an open target.

Cut_2_medium

Beasley catches the ball as Dunleavy tries to recover and get back in front of him. However, Beasley is too explosive and keeps his momentum going towards the hoop.

Cut_3_medium

Beasley again elevates and finishes over the top of both Dunleavy and the big man under the basket who tried to help.

Although Beasley is not so adept at creating offense off the dribble, he can be devastating when you get him on the move. His size and athleticism make him tough to stop. He's much more effective when he only has to use one or two dribbles to get to the rim.

Putting it all Together

There is no doubting Michael Beasley's talent. He's capable of heating up and dominating like no one else on this Suns roster.

However, for him to be that guy more often than he has been thus far it is going to take a joint effort by Beasley and the team. Alvin Gentry and Goran Dragic must put Beasley in position to play to his strengths, but Beasley also has to be willing to be used in that way.

If the Suns let Beasley stand out on the wing most of the game and just do whatever he wants, nothing will change. Asking him to create offense off the dribble on a regular basis is a recipe for disaster.

Beasley needs to do his work off the ball. He needs to get his shots in the post and on the move rather than on the wing. He needs to be a finisher more than a creator.

The ball-stopping and bad jump shots need to stop. There is definitely a place for Beasley in this new Suns offense, but Beasley has to be willing to make the necessary adjustments.

What say you Bright Side of the Sun? How will Gentry use Beasley? Will we see a new man, or the same old Beasley? The answers to these questions could be the difference between hope for the future and a disappointing season.


Gyi0062834724_standard_1349101733_400

Michael Beasley dominated in his one and only year in college. At Kanas State, Beasley scored on anyone and everyone that tried to check him. That offensive ability is what led to the Miami Heat taking him with the second overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

However, after his first four years in the NBA, he still hasn’t figured things out. Beasley spent his first two years in Miami playing power forward and the last two seasons in Minnesota as a small forward, but things didn’t really click for him in either place or at either position.

In reviewing some of his plays, it is pretty clear why he has struggled. A huge part of his poor play is on him and his decision-making. However, I believe the position he was put in, particularly in Minnesota, has played a large part as well.

As I wrote when Beasley was signed, he is not the guy many think he is. He is not a go-to offensive player in the traditional sense of someone you can give the ball to and expect a bucket or a foul. He’s not a great creator of offense from the perimeter. For a small forward, Beasley is not a particularly good ball-handler, nor is he a good passer.

That being said, the talent that made him a high pick is still there. He can still put points on the board and when he heats up, he is tough to slow down. The task the Suns are faced with is putting Beasley in position to play to his strengths without him trying to do too much.

ISOLATION

Beasley’s isolation ability separates him from the other wings on the roster, and this is an area that he certainly can help Phoenix’s offense. However, to feature him in this role would be a mistake.

Here’s an example of a positive isolation play by Beasley (all screen caps taken from footage from MySynergySports.com).

Iso_good_1_medium

In this play we see Beasley isolated in the corner. He has the entire left side of the court with which to work since the other four Wolves and their defenders were on the other side.

Iso_good_2_medium

Beasley gives his defender a jab-step then uses his long strides to blow by his defender. As you can see, the only defender in position to help is Indiana’s diminutive point guard Darren Collison.

Iso_good_3_medium

At this point Beasley has already beaten his man. He sweeps in and uses his length to finish over the help defense. Great play by Beasley, two points for Minnesota.

However, when you give the ball to Beasley in isolation, prepare for plenty of derps as well. Here’s a play showing a shot that Beasley takes far too often.

Iso_bad_1_medium

There are a few things that needed to be pointed out here. First, take a look at the shot clock: there are still 20 seconds left, so no need to hurry. Second, by my count all five Nuggets are back on defense, while Beasley only has two of his teammates up the court with him.

Iso_bad_2_medium

Instead of waiting for his teammates to get down the court to set up the offense, Beasley decides to take it himself. Making things even worse, he decides to drive to his right - where the help defense is – instead of going left – where the court is wide open. His drive gets shut down by two Nuggets, and the other three are also hanging around the paint. That means Beasley has three teammates wide open around the perimeter. So what does he do?

Iso_bad_3_medium

He takes a step-back, fade-away, 19-foot jump shot. Clank.

This is a recurring problem with Beasley. First, he does not move the ball nearly as often as he should. Second, he settles for far too many jump shots. Part of that is the lack of quickness and advanced ball-handling; he just can’t beat his man off the dribble all that often. And I don’t know if it’s an ego thing or poor basketball IQ, but it seems to me Beasley thinks those are good shots.

POST

This is the area the Suns will want to get Beasley plenty of touches this year. Beasley can be a mismatch while posting up, either operating out of the high post or taking advantage of his size down on the block.

Here's an example of a play where Beasley gets the ball in the high post.

Hi-post_1_w_pen_medium

Beasley sets up at the elbow and receives the pass from J.J. Barea, who runs to the corner to give Beasley space to go to work on Corey Brewer.

Hi-post_2_medium

Beasley turns and faces up on Brewer. He has a size and strength advantage here, and with an explosive first step and long strides he gets past him. The other Nuggets defenders have to respect the shooting ability of Anthony Tolliver and Martell Webster on the weak side and are too slow in rotating to help out their teammate.

Hi-post_3_medium

Again, Beasley uses his length and explosiveness to go up and finish over the top of the defense for two points.

As a former power forward, Beasley can also be effective down on the block. Here's a smart play by Beasley down low.

Lo-post_1_w_pen_medium

Beasley has a big mismatch here with shooting guard Courtney Lee trying to check him in the post. Houston's Kyle Lowry is in no man's land defensively right now, looking to double but not coming hard or fully committing.

Lo-post_2_medium

Beasley recognizes the mismatch and backs the smaller Lee down. Lowry left Ricky Rubio and is coming down to double, while Samuel Dalembert is waiting in the lane. But neither are in position to stop a quick move by Beasley.

Lo-post_3_medium

Beasley uses a drop step and spins baseline, away from the defense. He then elevates over the top and finishes at the basket. Lowry is too late to stop him and by going baseline he takes Dalembert out of the play. It's a one-on-one with Lee, and the 6-foot-5 shooting guard is just too small to stop Beasley.

CUT

With Beasley's length, athleticism and shooting touch he can be very effective slashing off the ball. The last play I have here is Beasley cutting in for an easy two points.

Cut_1_medium

This play starts after an offensive rebound by the Timberwolves. The Minnesota player has the ball in the corner and is surveying the court. Beasley realizes A) that his defender is playing off of him and B) that the middle of the floor is wide open. Beasley cuts hard to the paint and gives his teammate an open target.

Cut_2_medium

Beasley catches the ball as Dunleavy tries to recover and get back in front of him. However, Beasley is too explosive and keeps his momentum going towards the hoop.

Cut_3_medium

Beasley again elevates and finishes over the top of both Dunleavy and the big man under the basket who tried to help.

Although Beasley is not so adept at creating offense off the dribble, he can be devastating when you get him on the move. His size and athleticism make him tough to stop. He's much more effective when he only has to use one or two dribbles to get to the rim.

Putting it all Together

There is no doubting Michael Beasley's talent. He's capable of heating up and dominating like no one else on this Suns roster.

However, for him to be that guy more often than he has been thus far it is going to take a joint effort by Beasley and the team. Alvin Gentry and Goran Dragic must put Beasley in position to play to his strengths, but Beasley also has to be willing to be used in that way.

If the Suns let Beasley stand out on the wing most of the game and just do whatever he wants, nothing will change. Asking him to create offense off the dribble on a regular basis is a recipe for disaster.

Beasley needs to do his work off the ball. He needs to get his shots in the post and on the move rather than on the wing. He needs to be a finisher more than a creator.

The ball-stopping and bad jump shots need to stop. There is definitely a place for Beasley in this new Suns offense, but Beasley has to be willing to make the necessary adjustments.

What say you Bright Side of the Sun? How will Gentry use Beasley? Will we see a new man, or the same old Beasley? The answers to these questions could be the difference between hope for the future and a disappointing season.


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It's that time of year again. Everyone dons their wizard hat and predicts the future, based on the impressions of the present. Good teams will be good again. Bad teams will be bad. Splashy teams (NY, LA, Dallas, Brooklyn) get the headlines and the benefit of the doubt. Boring teams get ignored.

When it comes to the Phoenix Suns, though, most of the pundits on the internet have decided to "punt". Or to use an NBA term, to "swallow their whistle".

The knee-jerk perception among media is to bury the post-Nash Suns. Heck, even the NBA discounts the Suns, giving them only 5 nationally-televised games this year. How can a team that waved goodbye to their best player, without replacing him with a clearly better one, be anywhere near as good the next season?

But then part of the exercise of writing a season preview is to analyze the actual Suns roster, which has led to some raised eyebrows. Okay, Steve Nash and Grant Hill are gone. But they do have the impressive, young, media-loved Goran Dragic. Oh yeah, and there's steady Luis Scola. The interesting potential of Markieff Morris. And the enignmatic but uber-talented Michael Beasley. Hmm... Plus, Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat are still there too?

That's the point at which the pundits throw up their hands and equivocate. The Suns should be bad, because they didn't even make the playoffs last season before giving up their best player. But then the Suns could be good, because Dragic and Scola nearly carried a worse Rockets team to the postseason.

Who knows, right?

Some of them, in their moment of indecision, return to their simple comfort level and predict horrible things anyway. Others remain on the fence. Only Clyde Drexler - the TV color analyst for Dragic and Scola last season - is willing to ride the Suns' horse into battle.

Check out some previews throughout the interwebs as of this morning.

Phoenix Suns 2012-13 Season Preview | NBA.com

Phoenix Suns 2012-13 Season Preview - Yahoo! Sports

2012-2013 Phoenix Suns Season Preview | HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Phoenix Suns - Thunderous Intentions - An Oklahoma City Thunder Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns: Preseason Preview - Always Miller Time - An Indiana Pacers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More

Clyde "The Glide" Drexler's faith lies in the Phoenix Suns


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This off-season has brought with it the most active re-building phase that the Suns have seen in a decade. In case you've been living under a rock this summer, the former face of the franchise and lone superstar, Steve Nash, is now on the Los Angeles Lakers after the Suns made the decision to go younger with their pursuit and eventual signing of free-agent and former Sun Goran Dragic.

Not only that, but the Suns' elder statesman and veteran defensive leader, Grant Hill was more or less given the green light to seek out another team after the Suns apparently refused to make him an offer beyond a one-year deal at the veteran minimum. Hill eventually agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.

But that's not all. The Suns also parted ways with Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, and Josh Childress and rolled the dice on Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, and Jermaine O'Neal instead.

With all of the talk surrounding the changes to the Suns' roster this season and all of the new faces on the team, many seem to have overlooked a very interesting dynamic involving who the Suns will choose to start at the power forward position this year.

When the Suns were awarded Luis Scola (32 years old, 6'9", 245lb) from the amnesty auction this off-season, many fans were shocked being that the Suns already had Markieff Morris along with Channing Frye at the position. But with the recent, shocking medical diagnosis that will cause Frye to miss at least this season, the Suns front office now appears to have made a very wise decision by bringing aboard the scrappy, skilled veteran to help solidify the team.

Luis Scola is known as one of the most skilled big men in the interior. Although he doesn't possess elite size, strength, or athleticism, his craftiness and hustle in and around the paint makes him a very effective starting power forward who can not only run the pick and roll but can also post up and create his own shot.

Of course, the flip-side to this is that the Suns' very promising sophomore power forward, Markieff Morris, also appears primed and ready to step into the starting spot.

While Morris had an up-and-down first season with the Suns averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in approximately 20 minutes per game, Morris showed flashes of greatness in his first season...So much so that he was even placed into the starting line-up for a brief five-game stint after playing in only 14 games prior to that.

However, Morris struggled to find his niche last season in an offense that was customized around Nash's strengths, and he initially tried to become a player he probably wasn't the best suited for...a stretch-four. The Suns already had Channing Frye; what they needed was a defensive minded big man who could protect the rim inside, score down low, and gobble up rebounds in and around the paint.

Morris was eventually moved back to the second unit where he claimed to be more comfortable, much to the chagrin of many Suns' fans. However, Morris showed improvement as the season went on, and he finally seemed to realize that his biggest impact could be made inside of the arc.

After having one shortened season under his belt and now a full off-season working out with the training and coaching staff, Markieff appears ready to make his mark.

Morris was the undisputed MVP of the Suns' Summer League and was one of the top performers overall as well. Keef led the Summer Suns averaging 19.8 points (10th highest in the league), and 9.8 rebounds (2nd highest in the league) per game. He displayed an impressive post game, very nice footwork, and an improved jump shot as well.

While this was only Summer League basketball which can't really compare to the NBA, you couldn't help but notice the substantial improvements Markieff had made since we last saw him. Keef now appears both mentally and physically ready to take the reins and never look back.

But then again, Luis Scola is a proven vet who has proven chemistry with the Suns' new starting point guard. Although Dragic is only one and a half years removed from the Suns, this is now almost a completely different team than it was when he last played in Phoenix.

In fact, the only players still on the roster from when Dragic played in Phoenix are Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat (barely). So maybe having another familiar player in Scola, who played so well with Dragic in Houston, would be a better fit to start the season at power forward?

There's no way to know the right answer yet. There are certainly pros and cons for both Morris and Scola to play in the starting unit, and there won't be a clearer picture on who the right player will be until training camp and preseason starts.

It really could go either way...this will definitely be one competition to keep an eye on.

Poll
Who do you think should start at power forward for the Suns this season?

  213 votes | Results


New eras of NBA basketball teams come with skepticism. That skepticism is hard to argue against considering winning teams are built upon consistency in the lack of roster turnover and in the front...

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