Mired in a season of uncertainty and inconsistency the Houston Rockets have seemingly resolved their issues with the addition of Michael Beasley. One after another players were inserted and discarded as Bickerstaff searched for a fix. With his arrival Beasley has ignited the bench resurgence, but more importantly he’s filled a void that offers the starting unit additional rest.
It’s been a problem the whole year and it has been noticed by writers everywhere that the Houston Rockets bench just wasn’t up to the challenge this year.
Since the beginning things were not right, whenever the bench players checked in for the starters, everything started to crack. Houston’s regulars had little to no help coming from the bench. This resulted with players like James Harden and Trevor Ariza being loaded down with minutes and duties on the court.
Then Josh Smith came and it seemed that the Rockets had a chance for a fresh restart with last year’s squad. It was for naught as his impact faded sooner than expected.
For a while it looked like there was something really wrong with how Bickerstaff was handling and distributing minutes among his players.
In January I’ve even debated the case regarding the lack of criteria managing playing time in an article which zooned in specifically on Marcus Thornton’s minutes – one of the Rockets top contributors coming off the bench at the time.
Suddenly Marcus Thornton was gone, Ty Lawson was bought out and the Rockets were left short-handed. Once again I discussed the team’s bench and the urgency of acquiring new pieces if the team was to challenge the Western Heavyweights with but an ounce of hope of advancing. As with the status quo it appeared the team had absolutely no chance.
But then, something happened – the CBA MVP Michael Beasley was offered a chance to resume his NBA career playing for the Houston Rockets.
Now, the former number 2 draft pick from 2008 is a talented power forward no doubt but… Michael Beasley? Was he really the key for revitalizing the team’s chances?
To answer that question let’s first take a look at the bench production as of late.
Reviewing and Comparing Houston Rockets Bench Production in the last weeks
Before Beasley’s signing here’s how the Rockets bench ranked:
- 24th in points per game – 31.2
- Dead last in rebounds per game – 12.0
- 28th in minutes – 16.7
- 9th in steals – 3.2
- 29th in Efficiency – 31.4
Granted it’s a small sample size since Beasley became a Rocket (5 games), but his numbers are good – – scary good (or if you’re not a believe perhaps deceiving given their opponents over this period). Nevertheless, take a look:
- 1st in points per game – 50.2
- 16th in Rebounds per game – 15.6
- 9th in minutes per game – 19.7
- 3rd in steals – 4.2
- 5th in Efficiency – 52.8
While it may be true that the blowout win against the Memphis Grizzlies has definitely boosted some of those stats, the improvement obvious. And, that’s more than Beasley, it’s way more than him.
Recently players like K.J. McDaniels and Montrezl Harrell who were buried deep on the bench, have been given opportunities to showcase their abilities and contribute. McDaniels played a huge part in the Rockets win against the Sixers, and Harrell was great even though the Rockets lost to the Clippers.
That’s J.B. Bickerstaff trusting his squad for the first time in his early career – and the stats shows that it’s clearly paying off.
Did Michael Beasley serve as the catalyst that sparked the change though?
The Beasley Effect
The thing about Beasley that is intriguing is his drive to succeed in this second stint in the NBA.
He is obviously an offensive oriented player that likes to shoot first. Still his impact is felt in different ways on the court.
In reality the best thing about Beasley and what sets him aside from Marcus Thornton for example, is that he can do much more than just shoot the three.
The talented power forward is able to space the floor
He creates second (and third) chance opportunities crashing the boards
But most of all he is a player that can lead a second unit, especially if it is a strong athletic one (with the likes of McDaniels and Harrell) and drive it on both sides of the court when James Harden sits.
Just go ahead and watch the Rockets recent games or even the highlights above – Harden and Beasley are almost never sharing the court.
He is a great bench player because he takes all of the pressure from Harden’s back and more: he embraces that pressure.
Meanwhile other players in the squad are taking advantage of Beasley’s key role in the team as well.
The one evident case is Corey Brewer.
Brewer is another player that is rarely seen on court with the CBA MVP, that is by design however. As Bickerstaff smartly realized (but perhaps with some delay), Brewer operates better when playing with the starters and lately more often than not he’s been in the starting rotation.
He gets better looks, he can benefit from Trevor Ariza’s steals for the fast break and it genuinely has improved his game and more importantly his production.
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As we’ve experienced the whole season Brewer didn’t look fit to lead a second unit like he did with Josh Smith repeatedly last season. So, Beasley does seem to check off all the proverbial boxes and suit almost every need the Rockets have bench wise.
Let’s review it:
- Can lead bench players
- Gives the opportunity for the Rockets to play small with Corey Brewer in the first unit
- Keeps the pace, relieving pressure and minutes from Harden
The Rockets and their fans must be well aware though that in the final games of the season Michael Beasley is playing for his career and any impact he might create must be scrutinized and understood for what it is: a player desperately looking to reach a deal with a franchise to restart revitalizing his NBA life.
Therefore I still urge to not expect fireworks anytime soon and again, recognize the small sample size. That said, if the Rockets can retain Michael Beasley services at a reasonable price in free agency then he might become the sixth man the Rockets have been seeking for ages and thought they had obtained with Josh Smith.
He may or may not be here next year, but for the time being I think we can all agree that Michael Beasley is at least a valuable jack-of-all-trades and one of the main reasons the Houston Rockets bench has improved so much.
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