Wizards Training Camp FAQ: What’s the deal with Bradley Beal?
[Washington Wizards 2013-14 training camp is upon us. I bet you have some questions. Well, the TAI crew has answers. Five of us will cover five different frequently asked questions in a five-part series as the Wizards get ready to host Media Day on Friday, and then get to training camp work on the campus on George Mason on Saturday.]
What’s the deal with Bradley Beal?
What does he most need to add to his game? How much do the Wizards need to be concerned about a sophomore slump for Beal? And how much has his stress injury set back his development this summer?
–by Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It)
As with most any player, part of what defines Bradley Beal are the highs and lows of outsider and fan assessment. Not everyone buys into the extremes, but it happens—even with the media. (Perhaps increasingly so with the media.) So when Beal, after a single season at Florida and having just turned 19 on the 2012 night he was drafted, started the season with an uncertain struggle, people noticed. They especially saw a struggling jumper—his form looked OK, aside from his lift, it was mostly that the aim was off. Some wondered if Beal was kind of a bust.
Not susceptible to the extremes of a vocal minority, most knew better. On the other hand, today, knowing what we know about the improvement of Beal’s game in 2013, it would only be due diligence to consider that he might not be ready to make as big of a leap in his second season as people may think. When the light came on in Beal’s head and he started racking up Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month awards, ultimately placing him third in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year voting, people (myself included) thought Beal might one day vault John Wall as the Wizards’ top wand.* (For those who read tea leaves, or lunch pails, one game-night promotion last season featured Beal front-and-center on a metal lunch box while smaller versions of Wall and Nene stood aside each of Beal’s shoulders.)
Question is: should Beal be considered a lock to eat up a lion’s share of Washington’s minutes at 2-guard? A lion’s share would be more than 70 percent. According to 82games.com, Beal used 37 percent of Washington’s total minutes at the 2 last year, 4 percent at the 1, and 2 percent at the 3 spot. Worth noting that Beal only played 56 of 82 games via an assortment of injuries. By comparison, DeMar DeRozan played all 82 games for the Toronto Raptors last season and used 60 percent of his team’s minutes at 2 and 15 percent at the 3 position.
We can pinpoint Beal’s turning point last season: when the calendar flipped with a New Year’s Day night game against the Dallas Mavericks in Washington. (Coincidentally, an evening when a frustrated Wizards fan, in a loss, tossed their promotional Bradley Beal bobble-head doll down from the upper deck—luckily, no one got hurt.) Also that night against Dallas, he tied his season-high for points (22) and made a season-high four 3-pointers. About a week later, Beal was hitting his first true NBA game-winner in an upset of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the District. The next game after that, Wall returned, and both players provided a ton of evidence that they could flourish together, as expected.
Amongst Wizards duos paired together on the court for 400 minutes or more last season, Beal and Wall (458 minutes) ranked second on the team in plus/minus per 48 minutes (plus-9.4). Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza (467 minutes) ranked first with plus-10. Next up: Beal and Nene (697 mins., plus-6.1), Nene and Webster (1,124 mins., plus-5.6), and Wall and Webster (1,014 mins., plus-4.9).
In 2012, Beal shot 35.3 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from the 3-point line over 26 games. In 2013, he shot 45.8 percent from the field and 48.4 percent from deep over 30 games. That’s quite an improvement, and certainly reason to believe, allowing for an adjustment period for a 19-year-old for Pete’s sake, that the latter numbers will be more of an indicator of a future reality. In Randy Wittman’s recent words, Beal was no longer “scared shitless” as he was when he began his rookies season.
We know Beal has an excellent base. We know he’s a tough player. We know he’s a smart player. We know he can rebound out of the backcourt with the best of them. It will always be about Beal’s confidence in his jump shot. And, eventually, how versatile he can be. Dwyane Wade, for example, can run the point, break ankles, block shots, rebound … do it all, except for shoot 3s. So, there is a chance Beal could be even better.
Per Wittman and Grunfeld’s comments during their recent press conference, they expect Beal to improve mentally at defense—in terms of awareness of team concepts, as well as the individual scouting report—and they expect him to improve his ball-handling so that he, like John Wall, can effectively run a high pick-and-roll offense.
The biggest question mark surrounding Beal is how much having to sit out a good chunk of the summer, including summer league and Team USA camp, to heal a stress injury to his right fibula (which could have been avoided, in hindsight) will stunt his development going into year two. If he’s aiming to avoid a “sophomore slump,” this isn’t the way to go about it. But still, we will harp on Beal’s maturity and seriousness, more advanced by leaps and bounds over his predecessors, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford. Beal is also already a much better shepherd of team basketball, passing and turnover-wise combined, than the other two.
With his jump shot, Beal, in many situations, is a more ideal pick-and-roll initiator than Wall (of course, Beal needs to improve the quickness of the release, too). If he can show legitimate improvement in spacing off the dribble, pace, and breaking down defenders, the league better watch out. (But let’s allow Beal to get some more time under his belt before we proclaim him an All-Star contender.)
Now where can I get some of that Bradley Beal bubble-wrap?
* Of course, if this happened, the Washington Post’s Jason Reid would have to write a story about how Beal succeeded despite having tattoos.