Opportunity Knocks: The Unbearable Lightness of Beverley

Opportunity Knocks: The Unbearable Lightness of Beverley
May 19, 2015, 09:56 am
By Eric Weiss & Kevin O'Connor

Patrick Beverley doesn't care what your name is. And he's not afraid to tell anyone that will listen. That feisty bravado may have rubbed some people the wrong way initially – NBA guys don't like players who think they're better than they are…until they are better than you thought.
Beverley's road to becoming an NBA starter is an interesting journey worth exploring; one which makes him the starting Point Guard on Sports Aptitude's “All Steal” All-Star Team for our “Opportunity Knocks” series:

-DeAndre Jordan (Coming Soon)
-Draymond Green
-DeMarre Carroll (Coming Soon)
-Jimmy Butler
-Patrick Beverley
Situation is everything when it comes to gaining the opportunity necessary to “get your shot” in the league. The psychology of success depends so much on matching the personality of a player to his ideal learning environment, something we've covered exhaustively here.


Beverley was in a film, a TV show, and a top 75 recruit by the time he was 18 – for a player with strong dominance characteristics, a social status like that is bound to come pouring out at the seams.

Thanks to the NBA's hand-checking and other defensive rules changes, scoring point guards were starting to come into fashion while Beverley was at Arkansas. Unfortunately, he spent a lot of time as a 2-guard during his sophomore season, and was not a particularly productive as a distributor, nor was he an explosive scorer. His negative (-1) Pure Point Ratio in 2008 would rank dead last in this year's draft class among point guards, as would his scoring rate (13.1 points per-40), while his TS% would have clocked in at second to last.

Despite stellar “3-and-D” statistics, his diminutive size (6-0 ¼ without shoes) and lack of demonstrated pure playmaking had him in the dreaded “tweener” zone at a time when combo guards were just starting to gain popularity.

Spiriting away mysteriously to the Ukraine before the end of his sophomore year was over didn't help things either. Turning in a paper he didn't write was a critical, one-time offense that Beverley didn't shy away from when returning from his early stint overseas.

"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Someone did a paper for me. I turned in a paper that wasn't mine. I accepted full punishment for it. That's over. I served my punishment -- going overseas,” Beverley told ESPN in 2009. “You can't allow things to weigh you down in life, period. As a man, I understood that more after being over there in the Ukraine. You have to learn to be accountable for everything you do.”

Beverley's propensity to take risks (89th percentile) may have factored into this poor decision. Players who score high in “Risk-Taking” tend to venture forth in a fearless manner.

“I wasn't thinking. I didn't think I would get caught,” Beverley said. “I look back at those childish things. I learned from my mistakes. I guess that's what it took. It's amazing. It's crazy. People who have known me my whole life see how much I have changed. The way I carry myself and go about things is different. I really think to be a professional you have to a pro in every way in your everyday life."

Lots of people say they're sorry, but it's easier to buy into his remorse when one looks at his Warmth, Restraint, and Sentimentality ratings, which are all key indicators of someone with accountability and concern for how his actions impact others.

Unfortunately, some of Beverley's best attributes likely masked these qualities and hindered his ability to make the type of humble “aw-shucks” impression that many team's look for from players who've made mistakes in their immediate past.

“Critical” types are defined by their “rebel” mentality, a combination of controlling, oppositional, and change-seeking behavior; believing in the righteousness of their causes and vehemently defending their points of view.

It is often difficult for players like Beverley who have had an extreme amount of attention and accolades early on, but then suddenly find themselves dealing with disappointment for the first time. There is often an expectation when so much has gone right, that things are destined to go your way again.

These strong personalities often get weeded out of the selection process because of their unyielding nature. Those that have had “issues” often get “red flagged” and written off. Many players in this situation are not as well equipped to handle it, often times deflecting responsibility for their actions and searching for excuses not to change.

This group of “Critical” players makes up only 14% of the SA database, a quality that is as rare as it is productive, for those who find themselves in the right situations to succeed.

It is very uncommon to fall into both the “Critical” and “Dutiful” categories. In fact, there are only two other players in the NBA that share Beverley's combination of ratings in these two categories – Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler (with Wesley Mathews just 2.6% shy of joining this group).

Beverley doubled-down, bet on himself, and got to work on improving his game at a time where many players who share his “Critical” trait would simply go down swinging, holding fast to their beliefs.

Beverley's strong belief in his own potential and relentless quest to prove himself worthy of his early career accolades would eventually led him to the Houston Rockets – the destination where his “talk” would finally meet his “walk”.


The Rockets entered the 2012-13 season primed for “Linsanity,” after seeing both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic depart the previous year. Houston had high hopes for Jeremy Lin at the point, but brought in Toney Douglas to add some defensive punch to the backcourt.

By January the team was already looking to switch things up. Houston had a 103.8 defensive rating, only 20th in the league, the day that Beverley showed up. In the 41 games he played, Houston boasted an incredible 98.8 defensive rating when Beverley was in uniform. That's a mark that would have been good for sixth overall.

Beverley's tenacity and “in your face” approach had been refined and perfected during his three seasons overseas, and the qualities that once were a turnoff for scouts (his nonstop on-court chatter) were now the precise qualities that would spring him forward – especially for a Rockets team desperate to establish a strong defensive identity and “instigator” mentality.

Beverley is the ultimate competitor, taking on the toughest challenges and raising his level of play in key matchups. This is consistent with his high Dominance scores, since those players tend to seek out challenges and thrive in situations that other people may find challenging or stressful.

Over the past two seasons Beverley has managed to limit top point guards in the Western Conference, such as Ty Lawson and Mike Conley. According to SportVU, eight of the West's top point guards shot 5.5% worse when defended by Beverley. They surely could have used that in these NBA playoffs, certainly in the Western Conference Finals against Steph Curry.

Again, situation plays a tremendous role in how key personality factors play themselves out. While Beverley's skillset got him a shot at earning a role, the simple fact that Houston wanted him for something he was good at would help him maximize the “Dutiful” facet of his demeanor and turn the “Critical” component into a competitive fury, which he has unleashed onto the league.

But it was more than Beverley's tenacity that helped this equation work out. Back when he was simply trying to prove himself worthy of getting a chance to establish himself coming out of school, teams were more prone to grill him on his past transgressions therefore triggering his sense of need to defend himself – a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Being accepted by his team and knowing he could provide something of value would help to lessen that defensive/defiant edge and help him to focus his efforts on living up to expectations.

Feeling confident that there was a clear role and objectives before him, Beverley could now tap into another unique facet of his personality, his “Cautioning/Caring” Team Identity, which is defined as a person who, “seeks to build personal relationships, is attentive to the needs of others, and a voice of reason within group.”

Beverley could now focus his attention on fulfilling his role and earning the trust and respect of his peers. Among all 126 “Critical” players in the SA database, only 19% share this quality. Having a genuine desire to build relationships and live up to others expectations is an uncommon trait among the league's most aggressive and outspoken players.

Beverley has put this to good work, but a Rockets team that is allowing 106.8 points per 100 possessions could use him in the unlikely event he's able to return for the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, who are scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions. Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni have done a serviceable job platooning for the Rockets, but things are about to get serious against NBA MVP Stephen Curry.

The three remaining starting point guards in the playoffs all excel in the pick-and-roll and in isolation, which makes Beverley's return even more crucial. He allows only 0.629 points per possession in the pick-and-roll, because his strong fundamentals and tenacity make for a lethal combination.

Beverley ranks as one of the league's best in Closeout Points Allowed, which is measured by Vantage Sports, since he covers ground in a flash, chops his feet to get shooters off the line, and still manages to contain penetration. Despite spending the majority of his minutes defending elite point guards.

Beverley also ranks above the league average and leads all Houston guards in Vantage's Keep-in-Front%. This is defined as the percentage of drive attempts a player stays between the opponent and the basket, despite the fact he spends the majority of his minutes defending elite point guards.

It remains to be seen if Beverley can return to produce the type of bull dog defense that can be game changing to the otherwise offensively explosive Rockets. But rest assured, the analytics friendly Houston front office knows Beverley's value.

With the salary cap spike due to set in soon, it will be interesting to see how Beverley's perceived value has changed since those early days out of school. As Sinatra once said, “love is lovelier the second time around”.

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