Each Wednesday, Under The Microscope looks at a different player in the National Basketball Association and where they are in the season, how they're perceived on and off the court, and gives you a look at them in detail. Tonight the Miami Heat take on the Denver Nuggets on national televison, so we thought we'd start with the star rookie for the Heat, Michael Beasley. Join us after the jump to see where Beasley is and where he might be headed tonight.
Name: Michael Paul Beasley
Tangibles: 6' 10", 235 lbs., 7' 0.25" wingspan, 35.0" max. vertical (measurement stats via Draft Express).
Position: SF/PF Miami Heat
Born: January 9th, 1989
Drafted: 2nd Overall, 2008
Key stats: 13.0 ppg, 20.7 pper40, 45% FG%, 46% eFG% (according to 82games.com), 14.35 PER (Hollinger, natch), 5.1 rpg, .9 apg
Where He's At: You get the sense at times that Beasley is so magnificently over his head, if he were to take a moment to realize the events unfolding around him, it would swallow him alive like a giant whale, forever leaving him trapped playing cards with fishermen.
Here he is, drafted second overall, by a team that features an MVP candidate in his return-from-the-grave season, and a surprisingly adept roster that rallies around him. He has a championship coach as a GM and a first-year head coach. His team is nearing lock-status for the playoffs, and if they are to go anywhere, at all, they're going to need significant contributions from him.
Meanwhile, he's been wondrously inconsistent. I say wondrously because all too often rookies are consistent. Consistently terrible. Beasley on the other hand flows freely from a vapor trail to the hidden weapon James Bond keeps in his cuff-links. Stylish, effective, and to the point. Yet his minutes have gone on a strange ebb and flow. He was supposedly getting run down, having said to have hit the dreaded "Rookie Wall" far too early in the season, only to respond with one of his better games of the season against the Nets last weekend, knotting 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block against the Nets, and then getting his first double-double against the Spurs with 15 points and 12 rebounds in a loss.
He's seemingly getting better as the season goes on, becoming a complementary scorer to Wade and focusing more on the boards than assists, suiting his strengths rather than his weaknesses.
Who Is He To Us?: He's the kid who was somehow involved in the rookie symposium incident with Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur. He's been featured on ESPN. He's the kid who admits to having hit the Rookie Wall in December, and who doesn't seem to like the rookie hazing too much.
Beasley doesn't seem overly sensitive as some have portrayed Greg Oden, but he does seem to exude a rather delicate self-image, and he seems to have a lot of trouble with the whirlwind he's been thrust into it. Of course there's a good reason for that, like his coach says. He's 19.
Still, the worst games of Beasley's career so far have come when that delicacy seems to get the better of him, when he seems like he's just trying to keep up. As Wade flies past and Haslem pounds people into oblivion, there have been times when Beasley has vanished all together. Yet there are other times when his jumper is rolling and he floats the lane, and the body of work is sublime.
His season has been made all the more complicated by Shawn Marion's uncertain tenure in Miami. Beasley is a fun player to watch, despite, or maybe because he falls into that area of "bigs" with range that like to score. The fans are certainly receptive to him, but his jokester style has come off as somewhere between lovable and immature with the media and the fans. Ultimately, he's expected to be the offensive wingman to save Dwyane Wade. The Robin to deflect the bad guys enough for Wade to disarm the bomb and save the day.
What To Watch Tonight: With Carmelo Anthony out of the game, this frees up Beasley quite a bit to play his own game. The Nuggets will likely try and go big on the Heat, which suits their cut-and-run style just fine. Keep an eye out for how he tends to float to 18 feet on offense, and only pops low when he's got an opportunity to score.
Also keep an eye out for the black-hole-like quality he has, that coach Spoelstra has tried as hard as he can to get him out of. You'll notice in Beasley a sense that he's not quite certain of what he's doing. But when he gets the ball and gets to shoot, there's a natural sense to him that seems much more comfortable.
Beasley's known to be an emotional person, but hasn't had any sort of significant outburst this season, so there will be no waiting for the rookie to blow up this time around. His relationship with Marion is so transparent it almost doesn't exist, while you'll find Wade coming to give him pep-talks and rub his head every now and again. You'll also notice Udonis Haslem focusing on him, keeping his attention right.
Check back tomorrow to see what the night yielded in particular for Michael Beasley.