Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

January 21, 2009

Comparing Beasley on Fair Terms

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:32 pm

I’ve been toying with a Michael Beasley column for a while. Given his dominant performance in his lone season at Kansas State, Beasley figured to be an instant impact player in the NBA. While Beasley hasn’t exactly played poorly, nor has he set the league afire. I’ve thought about an Every Play Counts (along the lines of The Painted Area’s recent observations) or even a joint column with John Gasaway bringing together NCAA and NBA perspectives. So I was interested to read today’s column by Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also heard the questions. To satisfy his own thoughts on Beasley’s progress, Spoelstra looked up the rookie statistics of four power forwards who entered the league about the same age as the 19-year-old Beasley and eventually became stars.

Chris Bosh. Dirk Nowitzki. Jermaine O’Neal. Zach Randolph.

“It says something how Michael compares to them,” Spoelstra said.

Setting aside the issue of whether you’d really want your No. 2 overall pick to compare to Randolph. . .here are our numbers for this group of players. Note that I actually used O’Neal’s third season because he was barely 18 when he entered the NBA, while the other three players all turned 20 during the course of their rookie seasons.

Player       ORtg    DRtg   Win%   WARP    TS%    Usg   Reb%   Blk%

Bosh        100.1    99.6   .518    5.3   .513   .184   12.8    2.0
Nowitzki     97.9   100.4   .413   -0.2   .491   .225    9.5    1.3
O’Neal      100.1    99.9   .508    0.9   .457   .167   18.0    2.1
Randolph    103.5   102.7   .526    0.5   .479   .259   17.1    0.8

Beasley     103.2   105.4   .427    0.2   .507   .286   12.3    1.5

From this perspective, Beasley has not been as effective as most of his peers on a per-minute basis. Still, he doesn’t look out of place. The numbers make Beasley look like a better offensive player and worse defender than he is compared to this group because league-wide offense is better now than it was a few years ago when these players were entering the league. (Nowitzki came in the lockout season, the worst offensive year in modern NBA history.) Amongst this group, Beasley’s ability to create shots is unique, and it has to be considered encouraging that both Bosh and Nowitzki dramatically improved their rebounding after it was a weakness early in their careers.

All that said, here’s the thing. Neither Bosh and Randolph tore apart college opponents the way Beasley did. Randolph’s lone season as a Spartan was hit and miss, and while Bosh put up strong numbers at Georgia Tech, he was considered something of a project coming into the NBA. If this comparison makes me feel a little better about Beasley’s chances of reaching superstardom, it also leaves me continuing to wonder whether we need to start applying a huge discount to big freshman numbers like Beasley’s and Kevin Durant‘s in the one-and-done era.

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