Monday, July 19, 2010

Believing in Beasley

Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves registered their worst season since their 1991-92 campaign - the Wolves’ 15-67 record in 2009-10 matched the franchise-low achieved in ’91-92.

This would lead one to believe - or at least hope - things can’t get much worse, right?

Enter Michael Beasley.

The 6-foot-10-inch, 235-pound forward was acquired by Minnesota on July 12 from Miami for two future second round draft picks.

The no. 2 overall pick of the 2008 NBA draft, Beasley is a player with supreme talent and ability. However, the 21-year-old has also exhibited an immaturity and lack of production that rendered him tradeable in the Miami Heat’s eyes.

“Michael Beasley is a rare talent,” said Timberwolves GM David Kahn at Beasley’s introductory press conference July 15, “with the kind of skill, athleticism and drive to become one of the best players in our league.”

Kahn’s belief in Beasley will need to come to fruition for Minnesota as just one day after acquiring the forward the Wolves shipped off their 2009-10 leading scorer, Al Jefferson, to Utah.

Jefferson was slightly troubled last season (incurring a DWI charge in February) but also was very well liked and supported among the Timberwolves organization and its fans. The six-year NBA veteran was the key piece in the eight-player Kevin Garnett deal made three years ago and showed a lot of promise in his years at Minnesota, despite the lack of team success with the Wolves.

At only 25 years of age, Jefferson is in his prime and the trade to Utah was a mutual deal offering immediate playoff opportunities for Al and a chance for the young Timberpups to get even younger.

At 21, Beasley joins a 12-man Wolves roster with a current average age of 23.

“I’m happy to be a part of a great organization, a rebuilding organization, and I just want to play basketball,” said Beasley, at the July 15 press conference. “I feel like, being on such a young team, it forces me to grow up and become one of the leaders on and off the court.”

The Timberwolves optimistic new forward will take the court next year along side of another no. 2 overall draft pick in Darko Milicic. A 7-foot center from Serbia, Milicic was selected by Detroit as the second pick of the the 2003 NBA draft.

After underwhelming the Pistons and bouncing among three other NBA teams, Milicic was about ready to call it quits as a member of the New York Knicks last season. However, the Wolves gave him a chance, offered him playing time, were happy with Milicic’s production last season, and decided to sign him to a 4-year, $20 million deal.

Unlike Milicic, Beasley had been able to produce at times on the court but had some struggles off the court. In Miami, Beasley had some problems with violating team rules, substance abuse and also some possible psychological issues.

A pair of reclamation projects, to a degree, Beasley and Milicic will join 21-year-olds Jonny Flynn and Kevin Love, along with 23-year-old rookie Wesley Johnson as a five-man core of early first round talent - Flynn was drafted 6th overall in 2009, Love was 5th in 2008, and Johnson went 4th in 2010.

Beasley averaged 14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in his two seasons with the Heat. In his lone collegiate season, as a freshman at Kansas State, Beasley averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds in 33 games played.

Kahn and Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis believe in Beasley’s raw talent and potential. The objective now is to work with the young man and develop him and his young Timberwolves teammates into a competitive professional basketball team.

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