Los Angeles Lakers Have Nothing to Lose by Signing Michael Beasley

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

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If free-agent forward Michael Beasley is a no-risk option for the Los Angeles Lakers, does it matter what type of reward—high, low or anywhere in between—he offers?

Doesn't that absence of risk combined with an obvious need for talent at his position make him an attractive target for Hollywood's finest? You bet it does, and fortunately, the Lakers seem to agree.

The former No. 2 overall pick worked out at the team's practice facility recently, sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, and he impressed during the session.

"[Beasley] looked very good and he has been working out," a source said, per McMenamin. "A tiny rust from layoff, but [he] did a good job."

Bill Oram of the Orange County Register confirmed the workout but added that nothing has progressed beyond that point:

The fact that Beasley wowed the workout crowd should surprise no one. Basketball has never been his problem.

As Bleacher Report's Tyler Conway explained, Beasley's problems have surfaced when he's stepped outside the lines:

There was the marijuana incident at his first event as an NBA player, the rookie symposium. There was the stint in the rehabilitation center after a series of cryptic posts on Twitter. There was the time he was pulled over with marijuana in his car in Minneapolis. Then there was the other time he was pulled over with the ganja in his car, this time in Scottsdale. The latter incident helped expedite the end of his "toxic"relationship with the Phoenix Suns.

Without question, there are red flags flying around the Maryland native, and they absolutely must be taken into account at the negotiating table.

However, those risks have already been factored into this equation. Without them, Beasley wouldn't be sitting out on the open market.

STEVE YEATER/Associated Press

Players with his combination of size (6'10", 235 lbs), athleticism and scoring ability don't come around often. He was the second player selected in 2008 and considered by some to be a superior prospect to the one player taken before him: Derrick Rose.

If Beasley's career had gone according to plan, he might be working on a max deal right now instead of possibly agreeing to a non-guaranteed contract for the second consecutive summer.

To be clear, nothing has been offered to Beasley yet. Not publicly, anyway.

Maybe that's an alarm siren for some, but for the Lakers, it's an opportunity.

With future flexibility defining L.A.'s approach to the offseason—at least after the big-game hunts of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony came up empty—this team can afford to gamble.

"The Lakers are in a position to take chances on guys with talent and hope they put it together," wrote CBSSports.com's James Herbert. "Beasley fits that bill."

The Lakers' roster is littered with reclamation projects.

Former lottery picks Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson are still waiting for their talents to translate into consistent production. Amnesty victim Carlos Boozer arrived in L.A. earlier this summer with a massive chip on his shoulder. Global-phenom-turned-salary-dump Jeremy Lin might have even more to prove.

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JULY 24: Jeremy Lin #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a photo with Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak during a press conference on July 24, 2014 at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. NOTE TO USER: User
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Beasley isn't in the same boat now that Henry and Johnson were in last summer.

Neither of those players had ever had a double-digit season scoring average to his credit. Beasley has poured in 10.1 or more points per game in five of his six NBA seasons. For his career, he's tallied 19.2 points on 45.0 percent shooting and 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

He is far from a free-agent charity case. He has legitimate NBA talent and has produced whenever given the opportunity.

Now, is he a finished product? Of course not.

He's still learning how to maximize his ability. He drew rave reviews early last season then disappeared from Erik Spoelstra's rotation as his commitment to the defensive end waned. Sources told Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe that James "was not pleased with Beasley's focus."

Defensive lapses and a wavering focus are deal-breakers on a contender. On a rebuilding team searching for any help it can find, those same items are considered growing pains.

Not everyone wants to take on a 25-year-old project, but the Lakers can afford to be patient. This roster is in dire need of repair, and the best-case scenario is Beasley could provide a substantial lift.

As it stands, Lakers head coach Byron Scott could be choosing between Henry and Johnson for his starting small forward spot. Between the two, Johnson has a better career player efficiency rating: 10.0, well below the league-average mark of 15.0.

Beasley has a career 15.1 PER. For all of his public stumbles, he still stands as an average NBA player who has the chance to make so much more out of his career.

The Lakers need help on the wings.

Scott will likely need to lean on Nick Young and Kobe Bryant, both of whom are career shooting guards with an emphasis on shooting, to fill the 3 at times.

Rookie Julius Randle and sophomore Ryan Kelly could also factor into the rotation, but Scott would need some creativity to help overcome Randle's lack of range and Kelly's athletic limitations.

Every option presents a different challenge, and Beasley would be no different. Well, except for the fact that his ceiling might sit higher than the rest.

With that said, his paycheck won't reflect that. He played for a league-minimum deal last season, and nothing about his 2013-14 campaign suggests that rate will increase.

If the Lakers had him a non-guaranteed deal, they would have complete control of the situation.

If he pans out, they have a player to help in the present and the future. He's capable of creating his own shot, and the 35-year-old Bryant will need someone to help carry the scoring load.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the training room before the game against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on February 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Should Beasley wind up busting more than booming, the Purple and Gold can cut their losses and move on. Outside of serving as a footnote in this potentially tragic basketball story, there's really no harm done to the Lakers.

"For them, and for the situation they're in, this is a gamble they can make," wrote Bleacher Report's Dan Favale. "Because for them, and for the situation they're in, Beasley isn't much of a gamble at all."

Adding Beasley on a minimum deal with no guarantees is like finding an unused scratch ticket on the sidewalk. The chance of collecting a prize might be low, but the reward can be incredibly rich.

For his scoring alone, he can play a valuable role for the Lakers right now. It's not as if these frustrating seasons have robbed him of the physical gifts that first punched his NBA ticket.

There's still a chance he figures out how to put everything together, and it's a chance the Lakers need to take with so littleif anythingat stake.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.


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