by Ryne Nelson

(Note: Many readers have tried to cure my myopia toward Michael Beasley, but I just never listened. Maybe I didn’t want to. Truth is, I like to untangle the facts for myself, taking much longer to come to the same conclusions as everyone else. Even so, I was in shock as I saw where I was going with this piece. Justin Walsh pointed out the Pat Riley quote that got me thinking about Beasely today, so props to him. As I worked on the day’s Online Editor duties — moving around stories, answering emails, posting videos and photos, etc. — I began to map out a route for this article. You can follow the path I took and discover where I ended up…)

Cries of “Overrated!” began during Michael Beasley’s second summer league game in Orlando, and — justifiably or not — they’ve only gotten louder ever since. Fans, including myself, tried to project the 20-year-old’s future after just a couple games months. To say he’s under performing is one thing. To say that he’s overrated, or even a bust for that matter, is just ignorant.

But is Beasley truly doing all that bad? Dude has played over 30 minutes just five times since November 14, and he’s still fifth among rookies in scoring and sixth in rebounding. Sure, there are some obvious areas where B-Easy still needs to improve, but the Heat are happy with the trajectory on which their forward progressing. Just read what GM Pat Riley told ESPN‘s Jackie MacMullan earlier this week:

“If Beasley averaged 30 minutes a night, he’d score 24 points a game. If he played 40 minutes, he’d lead the league in scoring.”

That’s saying a lot about a player who’s scored over 25 points in just two of 63 games. Then again, it could happen.

Amar’e Stoudemire, as a 20-year-old rookie, started all but nine games in ’03-’04 and had a scoring average that’s nearly identical to Beasley’s, while playing 7 more minutes on average. A 20-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, who started just over half of his lock-out shortened rookie season, went mostly under-the-radar, averaging only 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds, in 4 minutes less than Beasley. No formula could have predicted that Nowitzki would finish in the top-10 in total points in nine of the following 10 seasons.

It’s the people who are around Beasley everyday who know him best. Dwyane Wade continues to tell his rookie, “I need you” and says Beasley’s the franchise’s future. There’s no doubt the team has full confidence in the No. 2-overall selection.

With the Heat making a Playoff push, Coach Erik Spoelstra is giving his veterans more time. Beasley clearly has that scary thing called potential, but we won’t know just how much until he gets a legit chance to show it. That chance should be coming soon.