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Knicks’ Beasley Thriving As Bench Scorer

Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

In the midst of absences of Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., the New York Knicks have found an unlikely savior in bench scorer Michael Beasley

After being selected second overall in the 2008 NBA draft, Knicks’ forward Michael Beasley was quickly slapped with the dreaded ‘bust’ label. Following a dominant one-and-done season at Kansas State (in which he averaged over 26 points in 31 minutes), Beasley bounced around with stops in Minnesota, Phoenix, Miami (a return stint), Houston, China and Milwaukee, but never really stuck. However, this season the New York Knicks took a flyer on Beas and he is making the most of it so far in 2017-18. Signing for just 1-year, $2.1 million, the New York front office invested in bench scoring, and that is just what they’ve gotten of late.   

While it is premature and reckless to read Beasley’s strong play as a ‘revival’ or ‘realized potential,’ his resurgence in New York is a matter of role. In the first two months of the season, Beasley struggled to crack Jeff Hornacek’s rotation, fighting for garbage time minutes with other bench bigs like Willy Hernangomez. However, with injuries and ineffectiveness plaguing stars Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., Beasley has asserted himself as a key bench piece recently. In December, the self-proclaimed “walking bucket” is averaging better than 15 points on 51% shooting in just 22 minutes. With his recent surges, he has cemented his role in the Knicks’ rotation, a notion that seemed wildly unlikely just weeks ago.

  

Rather than some grand awakening or addition to his game, Beasley has bought into Hornacek’s schemes, and the Knicks, for their part, are letting Beas be Beas. He is still the same volume scorer he has been throughout his career, although he has been shooting efficiently for the (at times) offense-starved Knicks’ bench unit. This season (in a smaller role), Beasley has bettered his overall career numbers in several efficiency ratings including field goal percentage (51.9% over 46.1%), effective field goal percentage (53.5% over 48.3%) and PER (15.8 over 15.4). His effectiveness does plateau with increasing minutes, making a bench role in which he can be a number one offensive option key to his recent flourishing.


The most polished aspect of his offensive game would be his ability to take the ball to the hoop and not settling for long contested jump shots. His recent efficiency can be best exemplified in the Knicks most recent win against the Celtics on December 21st; in New York’s upset, Beasley took centerstage for team, single-handedly mitigating the damage of Porzingis’ one point, 0-11 night from the field, coming off injury. In 25 effective minutes, Beasley grabbed 12 rebounds and scored 32 points on 13-20 from the field. Beas was serenaded with (largely ironic) MVP chants from the Garden crowd en route to becoming the first player to score over 30 points and grab over 10 boards off the bench this season.

 

While Beas has shown flashes of elite scoring ability off the pine for New York, he still makes quite a few questionable plays to curtail his positive impact. While averaging a near career-low in personal fouls at 1.8 per contest, he still has a penchant for silly fouls and he is turning the ball over at a near career-high of 2.1 per game, or an unacceptable 4.4 per 36 minutes. The low point of his season to date was a December 10th Knicks’ win over theHawks, in which he fouled out in less than 10 minutes of play.

In almost every relevant way, Beasley serves as the antithesis to fellow bench forward Lance Thomas, the four-year man out of Duke. Depending on the matchups and the flow of the game, Hornacek turns to Thomas for defense or Beasley for offense, and they rarely spend many minutes together. The defense/offense split is quite obvious; Thomas owns a 36.1% defensive field goal percentage to Beasley’s 49.1%, and Lance shoots 37% from the field compared to Beasley’s 51.9%. The Knicks get a noticeable offensive bump when Beas is on the court in eFG% (+.030) and offensive rating (+1.5). These stats are obvious, and Hornacek understands the tradeoff, and this is why Beasley is thriving of late: accepting him for what he is.

Thanks to a well-defined role with the Knicks and his family quelling many of his off-court issues, Michael Beasley may have finally righted the ship on his NBA career. Though the ‘bust’ label has dogged him throughout his career, perhaps his critics were trying to make Beas into someone he is not. Beasley will always be a scorer above all else, but when focused, he can score with any player, as he himself will tell you. Do not think of this as a revival or an NBA rebirth, but rather a team in desperate need for scoring allowing Beasley to be the walking bucket he’s always known himself to be. The Knicks ask him only for bench scoring and focused effort, and right now, they are reaping the rewards.

Edited by Brian Kang.

SQuiz
In the 2008 NBA draft, in which Michael Beasley was selected second, who was selected first overall?
Created 12/27/17
  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. Derrick Rose
  3. Blake Griffin
  4. Kevin Love

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