A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Kevin Love and Michael Beasley’s careers: A good measure of my feel for the game theory

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(Source: Wikipedia)

It’s fairly interesting that Michael Beasley’s career has gone down a mediocre path, that a Timberwolves lottery team isn’t giving him the qualifying offer at this, the end of his rookie scale contract. This is already the 2nd time in Beasley’s career, including his Miami contract dump to Minnesota, that a team has all but said “We’d rather have capspace than you. You are the weakest link. Goodbye”

Beasley was considered a surefire superstar coming out of college, after his Kevin Durant like freshman season statistically he where averaged 26, 12 and 53%. For most of that season Beasley had every bit the hype of Durant. Only the last few months before the draft did Derrick Rose’s meteoric rise in the tournament and concerns over Beasley’s motor remove some of the gloss.

Kevin Love on the other hand, while having just as dominant a freshman college season, was considered a good prospect that people weren’t sold on the upside of as much as Beasley, due to less than dominant physical tools and height. Amazingly, it is the Love who’s putting up a 26/13, MVP caliber production and Beasley who is a mediocre all but bust.

While Kevin Love certainly plays with a much better motor and toughness than Beasley, I can’t imagine that effort level is responsible for the difference between them. Beasley has never looked like the star talent he was made out to be. He was the one of the two players who suffered being being a small PF, while his post game from college disappeared as a result. For the most part he’s now a midrange jumpshooter.

If you read my 2012 draft big board, I introduced my hypothesis that a player’s impact is 33% physical, 33% skill, and 33% feel for the game. The last one is the most vague. Other terms I’d use to describe what I’m getting at is spatial awareness, vision, how natural they look as players. You know how James Harden and Paul Pierce makes the game look like it moves much slower for them than everyone else, as they calmly do their old man game ballhandling and driving into the lane craftiness? You know how Anthony Randolph and Jerryd Bayless play basketball like they’re having a permanent brain fart, are forced to rush into plays out of control, and seem like the game moves far too fast for them to keep up with? That’s the difference between great and poor feel for the game as far as I’m concerned.

One fun way I try to keep track of how much I like a player’s impact in the physical impact, skill impact and feel for the game, is to give them a numerical score for how they compare to their position – But the catch is the 3 numbers add up to the player’s total PER. I rank it from 1 to 11. Why 11? Because 3 11s would make the max a 33 PER, which is a better cap than 30, which players like Lebron this season or MJ in the past, have broken. A player who gets 5, 5, and 5 gets a 15 PER, which like those scores, is the definition of an average player. Anyways, it seems to line up fairly smoothly. For example Lebron gets an 11 in physical, an 11 in feel for the game, and a 9 in skill to make his 31 PER. Chris Paul gets an 11 in skill, 11 in feel for the game, and 5 in physical (he was once higher pre surgery) to end up with his 27 PER. And so on. Anyways, here are my two scores for Kevin Love last season and Michael Beasley his 2nd and final year at Miami – I used this season because comparing them both to power forwards is more direct, plus I believe Beasley will go back to being a long term power forward on his next team.

Kevin Love – 25 PER

Physical impact: 4 – A case could be made for attributing some of his rebounding to his physical impact, but I have Love’s rebounding as instinctual and IQ based, which fits more in feel for the game. Overall Love is improving using his size in the post, but physical impact isn’t how he dominates.

Skill impact: 10 – Kevin Love is one of the most skilled big men in the league, with a great shooting and post game

Feel for the Game: 11 – Love has an incredible feel for the court and mind for the game, which helps him get those rebounds, play off the ball, start fastbreaks, etc.

Michael Beasley (MIA) – 16 PER

Physical impact: 3 – Beasley has some strength and fluidity for a PF, but overall with his weak rebounding, post play and defense, he didn’t show up much physically compared to most PFs

Skill impact: 8 – Beasley was one of the most skilled PFs in the league, with the ability to hit the outside shot and handle well. Most of his production was skill based.

Feel for the Game: 5 – Beasley was comfortable ballhandling which gives him some points, but had very little feel for the rest for the rest of offense which led to a lot of bad shots and decision and tunnel vision as an offensive player

I believe Beasley is within range in physical impact and skills of Love. He is slightly more athletic, about the same size and had a solid ballhandling/shooting game. I believe the difference between them, which is absolutely substantial now, comes down to Love having an incredible feel for the playing basketball, where rebounds are going, etc. He plays a step ahead of the competition in basketball IQ at times. I think this is a solid case study of just how much mileage a player can get out of seeing the floor and making decisions better than everyone else.

Does this mean Beasley and Love going in this direction was foreseeable coming out of college? No. Even retroactively applying these scores, Beasley physically manhandled his college competition and dominated on the glass, meaning he looked like a 7 or 8 in physical impact and with his caliber of play, 6 in feel for the game may have seemed the floor. All in all he would’ve punched out as a 20-22 PER player. The big difference is that Kevin Love would’ve as well if the assumption was that his skill and feel for the game was incredible (say 20 combined points between them, whether it’s 10/10 or a 11/9), while nobody trusted his physical tools coming out of college, so with a 1 or 2 there, he still ends up with a 20-22. Which is all-star numbers mind you.

Kevin Love has worked much harder than Michael Beasley in his career, but if that ends up the narrative for why they didn’t switch spots, I think they it will be wrong. Love is a much more talented player than Beasley, because the mental aspect of the game is a talent, to go along with physical and skill.

Written by jr.

June 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm

One Response

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  1. One thing about Beasley that caused him troubles, as it did for Adam Morrison to a much greater extent, is that he’s found himself totally incapable of matching his FTA/FGA rate from college. He was a 60% TS player in college in part because he could get to the line and make his FTs, and in the NBA, he’s been utterly abysmal at it. He’s also fairly pedestrian at finishing around the rim. He doesn’t maximize high-efficiency opportunities and it makes him nothing more than a jump shooter. He’s also an unremarkable passer and a fairly notable tweener. He was exciting in college but hasn’t found a position where he’s useful at either end of the floor, unless you feel like stashing him in the role of spot-up shooter, for which there are better options.

    Love/Beasley are very similar in height and wingspan, but of course when Love hit the league, he had that base that Beasley doesn’t and eve since slimming down, he’s still got a more powerful lower body that helps him out. That “feel for the game,” or perhaps motivation or whatever it is, seems stronger in Love as well and while Love is actually worse at finishing around the rim than Beasley typically he, he has little trouble producing a very strong FTR, holding between 0.43 and 0.49, and he is of course a very good FT shooter, which helps him make up for his size disadvantage and comparatively weak finishing ability.

    I 100% agree with the idea that mental skills are talents, to a point, and that Love has definitely both outworked and out-thought Beasley on and off the court in order to be as productive and successful as he’s been without much difference in raw physical tools.


    July 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm

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