The Knicks lost former No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose in free agency to the Cavs this offseason, but New York will add the man who was selected right after him in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Michael Beasley has agreed to a one-year contract with the Knicks, as first reported by Basketball Insider’s Michael Scotto. It’s somewhat surprising considering there was reportedly a more lucrative offer on the table from the Shandong Golden Stars of the Chinese Basketball Association, a team for which Beasley played during a portion of the 2015-16 season before signing with the Rockets.
Acquiring Beasley won’t cause Knicks season ticket holders to sprint to Madison Square Garden for every home game, but he may be more useful than casual fans realize.
While Beasley is often viewed as a draft bust considering he was taken No. 2 overall behind Rose and ahead of 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook and four-time All-Star Kevin Love, the former Kansas State one-and-doner has stretched out a productive career and serves as a low-risk, (somewhat) high-reward signing. Beasley averaged 9.4 points per game for the Bucks last season on 53.2 percent shooting (41.9 percent from 3-point range), finishing with the second-highest player efficiency rating (17.8) of his nine-year NBA career.
At 28 years old on a veteran’s minimum contract ($2.1 million), Beasley provides a scoring punch as a reserve for a team that finished 25th in the league in bench scoring (31.9 points per game). And that’s assuming he comes off the bench — if Carmelo Anthony does eventually get traded, Beasley might need to step into the starting lineup. As one scout told The New York Post’s Marc Berman, “He can flat out score — isos along the right baseline. He could be a perfect replacement for Melo if he’s traded.”
He wasn’t always consistent, but Beasley showed flashes of what made him such an enticing prospect last season, like when he scored a team-high 28 points (11-of-18 shooting) in a road win against the Spurs back in January with Giannis Antetokounmpo limited by an illness.
Of course, there are always concerns that come with Beasley. He loses focus and drifts into the background at times, and coaches can’t count on his production on a game-to-game basis. He’s never been a great defender. He finished 51st among 70 qualified small forwards (minus-0.61) in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus metric, which estimates a player’s on-court impact defensively.
There are also the off-court problems. Beasley has dealt with his fair share of legal and substance abuse issues. Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady even used Beasley as an example of what was wrong with the NBA back in 2013.
Despite all of these fair points, there’s reason for optimism. Beasley actually performed better than both of the current small forwards listed on the Knicks roster in terms of Defensive Real Plus/Minus. Lance Thomas (minus-1.73) and Carmelo Anthony (minus-1.75) finished 64th and 65th, respectively, among qualified small forwards. Defense is an issue across the board for New York, so you might as well put Beasley on the floor as an offensive spark ahead of guys like Thomas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas.
As for the off-court drama, it’s likely newly-signed executive Craig Robinson, who just joined the Knicks’ front office after serving with the Bucks, provided info on Beasley. As USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt notes, Beasley proved he had grown up in Milwaukee last season. Whether that remains the case under the bright lights in New York City is the question.
NYK VP player development Craig Robinson's impact on Knicks felt already. He developed relationship w/ Michael Beasley last season w/ Bucks.
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 8, 2017
He was definitely not a negative in Bucks locker room last season — that comes from Kidd, front office and teammates young and older. https://t.co/NwpZcasd39
— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 8, 2017
If Beasley can bring the offensive firepower while keeping the media’s focus on basketball, this could be a great value signing for the Knicks, particularly in the event Anthony is moved. Beasley could end up seeing significant minutes next to rising star Kristaps Porzingis, but Beasley appears to recognize he can still find playing time as a supporting act. He should — yes, that’s a big should — understand Porzingis is “the guy” and not swallow possessions. (Beasley had the second-lowest usage percentage of his career last season on a team with a similar unicorn in Antetokounmpo.)
Beasley certainly isn’t a game-changer, but in the context of what he brings to the Knicks, he may turn out to be a valuable piece as the franchise attempts to build around Porzingis in the post-Phil Jackson era.