Michael Beasley is coming into his own and the New York Knicks are no stranger to a frustrating, yet captivating offensive talent coming off the bench.
Michael Beasley and J.R. Smith are one in the same. They are both usually one play away from making their coaches hair fall out. Each can be prone to defensive lapses and poor shot selection at times. The most drastic example of this came earlier this season when Beasley fouled out against the Atlanta Hawks in less than 10 minutes.
On the other hand, both are dynamic offensive talents that can erupt at any moment. They can fill up the box score on any given night. The type of player who always seems to be one shot away from getting hot.
The most notable thing about these guys is that they are just plain fun to watch. Beasley’s ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim is uncanny. Smith’s penchant for hitting deep threes and buzzer beaters will always keep you on the edge of your seat. For better or worse, these are the guys who always have you wondering what they are going to do next.
Beasley and Smith came to New York at a time in their careers when they were at a crossroads. Both players had enough talent for someone to take a chance on them. In both cases, the Knicks were the team willing to take that chance.
Beasley was coming off of a disappointing season in Milwaukee and the Knicks would be his sixth team in the last seven years. That is an extremely tough look. How many teams would be willing to give him another chance if the experiment in New York failed?
Smith signed with the Knicks during the 2011-2012 season after playing in China during the NBA lockout. The 26-year old was certainly less of a wild card than the now 29-year old Beasley, but he was still a risk for the Knicks. After playing overseas, Smith was looking to take the next step in the NBA. The following season he did just that, by taking home the Sixth Man of the Year Award and averaging 18.1 points-per-game and 5.3 rebounds-per-game.
After a rocky start for Beasley, things seem to be improving as he has taken some of the pressure off of Kristaps Porzingis during Tim Hardaway Jr.’s absence. Since THJ has gone down, Beasley has scored in double figures in 14 of the 18 games he’s played in. He’s scored 30-plus points twice during that stretch and those games came in pivotal wins against the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Beasley made history against Boston when he became the first player to come off the bench and record 32 points and 12 rebounds in fewer than 25 minutes.
By The Numbers
Beasley’s arc with the Knicks is beginning to look more like Smith’s tenure in New York. Let’s first take a look at Beasley’s numbers from this season side-by-side with Smith’s 2011-2012 season.
In 33 games this season, Beasley is averaging 12 points-per-game, 4.9 rebounds-per-game, and 1.7 assists-per-game.
In 35 games in 2011-2012, Smith averaged 12.5 points-per-game, 3.9 rebounds-per-game, and 2.4 assists-per-game.
Those numbers show how it took Smith sometime before he truly blossomed into the player that was capable of winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in the following year. Beasley’s early struggles and overall numbers parallel Smith’s first experiences as a New York Knick.
But how do Beasley’s numbers this season compare to 2012-13 when Smith had the best year of his career?
In 80 games that season, Smith averaged 18.1 points-per-game, 5.3 rebounds-per-game, and 2.7 assists-per-game.
On its face, Smith’s 2012-13 season was much more productive, but was it more efficient? The numbers suggest otherwise.Per 100 numbers take a players statistics and weight them out per 100 possessions. This helps to more accurately compare players who play different amounts of minutes and at different paces.
Beasley’s per 100 numbers are slightly better than Smith’s which indicate that his current season has been more efficient than Smith’s award-winning campaign.
Beasley is averaging 32.1 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per 100 possessions. In 2012-2013 Smith averaged 28.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per 100 possessions. Admittedly, this doesn’t mean that Beasley is having a definitively better year than Smith.
The Knicks were a very good team in 2012-2013. They won 54 games and were the last Knicks team to make the playoffs. J.R. Smith was a huge part of that success.
This year’s Knicks are struggling to find themselves a bit. They are a much younger team with much lower expectations, but they are capable of making the playoffs this season. And if they do, there is a good chance that Michael Beasley is a big part of it.