Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beasley or Rose?

The NBA Draft is on Thursday and the Pistons probably won’t have much going on. I suppose a trade is possible but I’m guessing Joe D will attempt to do his damage via a trade in July. There won’t be too many options at pick #29 but Joe D has snagged Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey with mid-to-late first round picks so hopefully he’ll come up with another guy who can contribute. Maybe Kosta Koufos or DeAndre Jordan will slide? Or, maybe I need to keep dreaming. In the meantime, the battle for first overall is going down to the wire.

Pat Riley has the #2 pick in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory and he’s acting as if he’s cursed—or so it seemed. Initially, reports surfaced that Riley was not enamored with Michael Beasley. Miami appeared to be so turned off by Beasley that it sparked one of the worst trade rumors in sports history. A Chicago columnist suggested that the Heat might be willing to trade the #2 pick and Dwyane Wade for the #1 pick giving Miami the chance to take Derrick Rose. Maybe the Pistons could trade Walter Herrmann for Dwight Howard? Now, reports are circulating that Riley doesn’t want Rose and really covets Beasley. I’ve never been a fan of “showing your cards” before the draft. For instance, it is widely believed that the Nets are locked in to picking Danilo Gallinari’s with the 10th pick. Why would the Nets want everyone to know that? Even if it was a leak, the front office needs to be tight-lipped about stuff like that. When I first heard the reports that Riley didn’t care for Beasley, I thought he was being careless. However, now that the same reports have surfaced about his disinterest in Rose, Riley has everyone guessing. That’s what a good GM should strive to accomplish.

If I had to guess, I’d say Riley covets Beasley. Sure, there is a big question mark surrounding his attitude. It might not end up being an issue but the uncertainty around it calls for caution. There’s also the fact that Beasley is not 6’10—his listed height in college—rather 6’8. Still anyone who watched him play at Kansas St. knows that he is a special player. In fact, he is probably the most offensively gifted power-forward I have ever seen come out of college. His numbers as an 18 year-old at KSU were astonishing. He led the NCAA in rebounding and finished third in scoring. He even shot 40% from 3-point range. There is also an underrated aspect of his game that makes him even more difficult to defend: he is a lefty. Anyone who has defended against a left-handed basketball player knows the problems that presents. Manu Ginobili is just one example. He finishes with the same move to the left, over and over again, leaving defenders shaking their heads. Right-handed players have difficulty defending left-handed players and vice versa. Beasley uses this advantage to get easy looks in the lane.

The player who Beasley compares most favorably to in the NBA right now—at least offensively—is David West. If you saw West in the playoffs, you know he is close to unstoppable. He has the inside/outside game that causes havoc. Beasley has more range and is a better rebounder. Any team looking to win an NBA Championship needs to have not only a low-post presence, but a dominating one at that. Eight of the last ten NBA Championships were won by either Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan. The Pistons won in ’04 with the Wallaces. Boston won this year with Kevin Garnett. Check the resumes of the big-men in the NBA. Dominating big-men win championships. Teams with dominating point-guards lose in the second round of the playoffs. As good as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash are, they’ve never won anything. They don’t have the same impact on the game as Duncan, Shaq, and KG.

The Bulls should be coveting Beasley, too. They have been looking for low-post scoring since I was born. The Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Ben Wallace, Joakim Noah lineage has to be growing old. Their predecessors—Dave Corzine, Bill Cartwright, and the three-headed monster (Will Perdue, Bill Wennington, and Luc Longley)—weren’t any better. Chicago already has a decent nucleus. A Deng/Beasley/Noah front court with Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich in the backcourt is pretty damn formidable. Drafting Rose leaves the frontcourt weak and the backcourt overcrowded.

Then again, maybe all of this “Pat Riley doesn’t want Michael Beasley/Derrick Rose” is just a cover for a bigger plan. Rumors have circulated over the past few days that Miami might be interested in obtaining the #1 overall pick for Dwyane Wade giving the Heat the opportunity to draft Rose and Beasley. That would be a genius moving considering a). Wade’s propensity for injuries, and b). the affordability of rookie salaries.

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