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When Are A Player's Off-Court Issues Worth Dealing With For NBA Teams?

Michael Beasley was released by the Suns this week, in large part because of his off-court problems. When is it worth keeping a player around despite those issues?

Christian Petersen

For some players, off-court issues are simply part of the package deal.

Some are worth it. Some are not.

Former second overall pick and notorious pot smoker Michael Beasley was released from the Phoenix Suns this week, in large part due to his off-the-court issues. He’s 24 years old.

Phoenix was the third team in Beasley’s young NBA career, and he struggled with marijuana at each stop.

In his first year with the Miami Heat, Beasley was fined $50,000 for his involvement in an incident during the NBA’s Rookie Transition program—Beasley confessed that he was in a hotel room in which police smelled marijuana during a fire alarm call. In Minnesota, Beasley was pulled over for speeding when an officer also found marijuana in the car (Beasley claimed the drugs were his friend’s whom he’d just dropped off). Finally, in Phoenix, another arrest on suspicion of drug possession was a large factor in the Suns releasing Beasley this week.

Portland Trail Blazers fans know a thing or two about players with drug problems. Heck, there was an entire decade of players that fit that mold. With such a large sample size of these players coming through the Blazer program, there are certain characteristics that indicate whether distraction-prone players can turn it around.

Michael Beasley doesn’t seem to match the criteria.

First and foremost, the guys that turned it around in Portland not only had incredible ability, but were also highly productive. Names like Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Zach Randolph were all players with off-the-court issues that were relevant statistically.

Secondly, not only were those guys producers, they tended to play impact roles on their respective teams. Wallace and Stoudamire were two integral pieces on a team that reached the Western Conference Finals. On the court, Randolph was a stellar offensive player who also logged well over 30 minutes played per game during the bulk of his Blazer career.

Wallace was a four-time All Star and NBA champion. Randolph has also developed into a two-time All-Star and fan favorite in Memphis, while Stoudamire has grown as a leader in a variety of coaching roles. Each was able to salvage a quality career.

There were also plenty of players that weren’t able to turn it around. Guys like Qyntel Woods, Bonzi Wells or Ruben Patterson (amongst a plethora of others) either spent the early part or the prime of their careers in Portland. They were all talented but none were major contributors. None put up numbers. And though some stuck around in the league, they never truly lived up to their potential.

Beasley belongs in the second group.

With career averages of 14 points and five rebounds, Beasley has never lived up to the hype of being the second overall pick. He’s started less than a third of the games he’s appeared in over the last two years. The attention is obviously on his off-court antics, but at the end of the day he has yet to be a key part of any NBA team.

So maybe the biggest struggle for Beasley isn’t with smoking pot—as noted, we’ve seen plenty of guys in this city that can handle that and still be successful. Maybe his biggest issue of all is that he doesn’t fit the criteria of a player that can turn it around.

Signing Beasley is obviously a risk.

The hit to a team just doesn’t seem worth it.