Expected Scoring – Michael Beasley

We are continuing with our preseason Expected Scoring player profiles. Today we’ll be looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Michael Beasley. I ended up looking at Beasley after reading an excellent post about his potential at Canis Hoopus: Beasley Needs To Be A 10-10-10 Player. I’m also working on a post for later today looking at the 10-10-10 idea in a little more depth.

If you’ve missed my other posts on the subject, Expected Points uses a player’s FGA from each area of the floor and multiplies it by the average number of points scored on that type of shot to come up with an Expected Point total from that area. The Expected Point total can than be compared to the actual number of points a player scored from that area to arrive at a Point Differential. This point differential is an expression of how a player shot compared to the league average, but I like that the comparison is drawn with actual point totals.  The average values of shots by location that I use (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.

Beasley’s story is well known. He was one of the most dominant college players in recent memory. He entered the NBA with a mix of power forward and small forward attributes and a reputation for being immature and unfocused on and off the court. This reputation was reinforced with several drug related incidents, a stint in rehab last summer, and disappointing production on the court. Beasley was traded to Minnesota this summer as part of Miami’s cap clearing efforts. David Kahn and the Timberwolves were hoping that a change of scenery and a new system could put his considerable offensive talents to better use. Let’s take a look at what the Timberwolves got and might expect to get from Beasley this season. Here are his traditional stats (per 40 minutes) from his two seasons in Miami and the 2010-2011 preseason thus far (6 games):

His first two seasons in Miami were fairly similar statistically. He saw a drop off in his scoring, likely connected to the 13 point drop in his 3PT%. Other than that there was not much progression or regression in his stats. With Minnesota, Beasley has seen a fairly large increase in his scoring output. However, his FG% and FT% have both dropped by nearly 4 points, so the scoring increase comes mostly from the fact that he is averaging 21.6 FGA/40 as opposed to 17.9 FGA/40 last season in Miami. His rebounding numbers have fallen off and his turnovers have jumped to a ludicrous level. Some of this may come from the fact that he is playing a lot more small forward than he did in Miami, as well as learning a new offensive system, the notoriously complex triangle offense.

Let’s now break down his scoring efficiency, or lack there of, in a little more depth. Below is a table showing Beasley’s Expected Points, Actual Points and Point Differential for each area of the floor from the last two seasons and through the first 6 games of this preseason (all numbers are per 40 minutes). If you prefer a spreadsheet to the embedded table photo, here is the link.

As with his first two seasons in the league, what Beasley has provided thus far has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Beasley has shown a steady increase in his efficiency at the rim, going from scoring 0.52 points less than expected per 40 minutes as a rookie, to scoring 0.60 points more than expected per 40 minutes in Minnesota. His 3PT shooting his rebounded after last year’s disaster to a respectable level, moving him back to a positive Point Differential from that area.

Despite those positives Beasley has continued to shoot himself in the foot with his horrible efficiency in the mid-range game. Beasley is scoring slightly above expected on shots from 10-15ft. but is scoring WAY below expected on shots <10ft. and 16-23ft., with a negative differential of over 1.00 points per 40 from each area. Combined, he is scoring 1.77 points per 40 less than expected on all shots that aren’t taken at the rim or from behind the three-point line. Last season his Point Differentials from those three areas were each negative and combined to have him score 0.61 points per 40 less than expected on those shots.

The most frustrating thing is his seeming lack of awareness of this weakness in his game. Last season 61% of his shots came from those three areas combined (<10ft, 10-15ft., 16-23ft.) on which he scored 0.61 points per 40 less than expected. Thus far in the preseason he is taking 66% of his shots from those three areas and scoring 1.77 points per 40 less than expected. It’s not that Beasley isn’t capable of being a consistent jumpshooter, he shot 46% on 16-23ft. jumpers as a rookie. The problem is that he is far to willing to settle for these shots and teams are happy to let him, contesting the shot on the way up.

Beasley’s XPts at the rim have gone down in each of his first two seasons, and have continued their downward trend thus far in the preseason. The inverse has happened with his XPts on 3PTs. This means Beasley has fallen into a pattern of taking less shots at the rim and moving them out beyond the 3PT arc. Again, Beasley is a capable 3PT shooter, but his prowess from distance is nothing compared to what he can do close to the basket.

As Beasley enters his 3rd season in the NBA, obscurity and irrelevance threaten to envelop him, likely for the first time in his life. In my humble opinion, the solution is a drastic adjustment in his shot selection. Begin each game attacking the rim. Develop a reputation for attacking the rim. The contested jumpers will still be there when the shot clock is running down. Beasley does not and should not bear sole responsibility for making this change. It is incumbent upon the Minnesota coaching staff to help him make this change with coaching, cajoling and adjustments to their offensive schemes. Beasley can be a tremendous asset for the Timberwolves, but only if they can work with him to maximize his talents for their benefit.

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4 Comments

Filed under Expected Scoring Player Profiles, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, Statistical Analysis

4 responses to “Expected Scoring – Michael Beasley

  1. Chicago Tim

    Thanks for this fascinating series. I’m eager to see what you have to say about the Bulls players/team this year.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Tim. I have got a similar profile of Luol Deng in the works that I’d like to get up before the regular season starts. Everything else will probably have to wait until during the season. Thanks again!

  2. Bill Gish

    Nice analysis of Beasley’s game.

    I especially liked that you point out that he is attacking the rim less than he used to.

    However, rather than attribute that to him inexplicably settling for jump shots and drifting out to the 3-point line too often, I wish there was a way to look at how often his shot is blocked or altered when contested by the taller players he often faces.

    When he first entered the league I noted and wrote a modest blog entry about his high blocks against stats. These are hard to look at because I have not found a site that compiles them for the season. They are only found in box scores.

    But assuming that he is compensating because he is skittish about getting facials when he attacks the rim when defenders are present, wouldn’t that account for the counterproductive changes in his game that you noted?

    Glen Davis and DeJuan Blair are other players who get rejected a lot but at least their widebody style provides some protection. Beasley only has his speed which is nullified in the paint except on fast breaks and sideline cuts.

    • Bill,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Hoopdata.com actually does track the percentage of a player’s shots which get blocked. Unfortunately they don’t track this in relation the floor location, the position he is playing, or the opponent he is going against; all information which could help us understand why his shot might be getting blocked. Their formula is simply Times Blocked/Field Goal Attempts. It can be found under the “Scoring” stats heading of their player stats pages.

      Beasley has 7.3% of his shots blocked as a rookie, and 6.7% blocked last year. For last season of players who played 20+ games with an average of 10+ minutes per game, his percentage would have ranked him 135th in the league with a healthy mix of guards and frontcourt players faring much worse than him. To add further context Glen Davis who you mentioned earlier was tops (or bottoms depending on how you look at it) on the list with a whopping 17.9% of his shots getting blocked. DeJuan Blair was 15th with 12.1% of his shots getting blocked.

      It’s possible that even though the percentage of shots being blocked is not that high, that even those few shots being blocked have had a big psychological effect on him. My perception is this probably the first time in his life he hasn’t been able to just dominate the competition physically. That coupled with his public relations challenges may have made him a little more gunshy and hesitant on the basketball court.

      It also seems like his body has changed quite a bit since his time at KState. Perhaps it was just standing next to other college players, but I remember him looking very physically imposing. Not necessarily in terms of height but just overall physique. Maybe bigger opponents make him look smaller, but I would guess that he has lost some muscle mass as well and slimmed down. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but if his skill set is predicated primarily on physicality and interior play, as it appeared to be in college, then we could be seeing the adjustment period as he learns to maximize his speed and athleticism instead of his power and athelticism.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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