Bradley Beal: Rough Rookie Start, But He’s Only 19. So How Much Can He Improve?
BRADLEY BEAL IS NOT HAVING A GOOD ROOKIE YEAR, so far.
ESPN.com’s David Thorpe recently listed Beal amongst his rookie disappointments (ESPN Insider), but concluded:
If John Wall, who is out with a knee injury, were playing next to Beal in the backcourt, things would surely get easier for Beal. It’s a great thing to look forward to. Just as the game slows down for Beal, Wall should return, and that combination suggests Beal will have a big second half of the season.
Also, Beal is just 19 years old. Much room for improvement. But how much? Let’s peel back some numbers.
Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is a statistic that adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. Wizards newcomers Bradley Beal and Emeka Okafor—a rookie guard and a 30-year-old veteran center who are shooting an eFG% of .401 and .400 respectively—are having two of the nine worst eFG% shooting seasons in Wizards/Bullets franchise history (during the 3-point era, since the 1979-80 season). Trevor Ariza, with an eFG% of .360, is the absolute worst.*
[*Stat under the requirement of averaging 22 or more minutes per game and appearing in at least 10 games, via basketball-reference.com. The distinguished list of nine includes Phil Chenier in his final season with the franchise (.400 eFG%); the 2003-04, NBA soph version of Jared Jeffries (.383 eFG%) who shot 24.7 percent from outside of three feet that season; and last season’s lockout-shortened Andray Blatche (.384 eFG%).]
Forty (40) NBA players are attempting 4.5 or more 3-pointers per game this season. Beal ranks 40th (last) in eFG% with his .401. However, amongst this high-volume group of 3-ball shooters, Beal ranks 29th in 3-point percentage. His .333 from deep bests Klay Thompson’s .323, James Harden’s .320, Jameer Nelson’s .313, Deron Williams’s .262, and Danilo Gallinari’s .217.
See? Not all is bad for the 19-year-old rookie, drafted with the expectation of being the Wizards’ long distance threat, and more, for the distant future.
Speaking of 19-year-olds… Below, find a list of the guard/wing forward 19-year-old NBA rookies, 6-foot-7 or shorter, who averaged 15 or more minutes per game, eight or more field goals attempted per 36 minutes, and two or more 3-point field goals attempted per 36 minutes (listed by: eFG%, 3p%, points per 36, minutes per game, PER, and sorted by eFG% — via basketball-reference.com):
- Kyrie Irving
(.517 eFG%, .399 3P%, 21.8 PTS/36, 30.5 MP/G, 21.4 PER)
- Jrue Holiday
(.502, .390, 12.0, 24.2, 12.3)
- Martell Webster
(.493, .357, 13.6, 17.5, 11.6)
- Tony Parker
(.467, .323, 11.2, 29.4, 11.7)
- Stephon Marbury
(.466, .354, 16.4, 34.6, 16.1)
- J.R. Smith
(.449, .288, 15.1, 24.5, 10.9)
- Dejuan Wagner
(.414, .316, 16.3, 29.5, 10.9)
- Bradley Beal
(.401, .333, 14.4, 28.2, 11.2)
Several of these things aren’t like the other. All except Beal, Martell Webster and J.R. Smith were/are “scoring” point guards. Webster is not the same type of wing player as Beal and for most intents and purposes, on the court and off, neither is Smith.
But as far as 19-year-olds go, J.R. Smith, who is now 27 and in his ninth NBA season, put up the following eFG% in seasons one-thru-nine:
.449, .464, .557, .578, .541, .491,. 514., .490, .500
Smith’s 3-point percentage has gone down this path:
.288, .371, .390, .403., 397, .338, .390, .347, .529
Smith clearly hit pay dirt in seasons three to five, his first three with the Denver Nuggets. Between those seasons (2006-07 to 2008-09), 26 NBA guards/forwards played 150 or more games and attempted four or more 3-pointers per game. Smith was second to only Steve Nash in eFG%. But Smith, in going from his rookie to his sophomore campaign as a New Orleans Hornet, made a significant jump, especially in 3-point shooting, once he was no longer a teenager.
Bradley Beal has a long way to go before he’s anything, and with these beginnings, on an 0-11 team, he’s starting in a hole. It also goes without saying that Beal’s first 11 NBA games are not Ray Allen-esque (Allen’s eFG% through his first 11 games was .478 compared to Beal’s .401). Just also note that unlike Allen, Beal isn’t entering the NBA as a 21-year-old with three years of college experience, nor is he playing next to a scorer like Glenn Robinson, an All-Star like Vin Baker, or competent point guards like Sherman Douglas and Elliot Perry.
Beal will get there, it will just take time. A large part of the reason why the Wizards drafted Beal is because he’s shown the aptitude to make big strides, perhaps just not to a level where he can put a franchise on his back. But not even that script has been written.