This Year’s Bradley Beal : TAI Wizards Player Previews 2013-14
[Truth About It.net player previews of Washington Wizards in 2013-14 -- For each player on this year's roster of 15, we take a look at what's at stake, an interesting statistic, and finally, where that player needs to improve (or excel) to make successful contributions toward a playoff goal.]
Eric Maynor via Conor Dirks; Garrett Temple via Adam McGinnis;
Otto Porter via Adam Rubin; Glen Rice, Jr. via Rashad Mobley;
Trevor Ariza via John C. Townsend; Trevor Booker via Adam Rubin;
Al Harrington via Kyle Weidie; Chris Singleton via Adam McGinnis;
Kevin Seraphin via Sean Fagan; Martell Webster via John C. Townsend;
Jan Vesely via Kyle Weidie & Lukas Kuba; Nene Hilario via Rashad Mobley;
Emeka Okafor via Sean Fagan;
Bradley Beal via Kyle Weidie; John Wall via Conor Dirks.
WHAT’S AT STAKE.
It keeps sticking in my mind… Bradley Beal is “presidential.”
It was first mentioned in an article by Seth Davis for Sports Illustrated in the days leading up to the 2012 NBA Draft. Davis interviewed six different scouts who gave anonymous quotes about several draft prospects.
“Phenomenal body, good shooter, not an over-the-top athlete but he’s good enough. He’s also a great kid, almost presidential,” said one scout.
As I’ve watched Beal’s game grow over the course of a mere 16 months, five of which were vetoed due to a stress injury to his right fibula, that presidential term has stuck with me. I can’t think of anything that describes Beal’s composure and fluidity in the fire of court-time action better.
…Even if Beal’s post-game interview demeanor isn’t exactly presidential. He’s certainly adequate in this regard—he’s just a nice kid, after all—but you could tell that his annoyance levels in dealing with each prerequisite post-game sessions rose as last season progressed. But comfort, and tolerance, of the media should come with age; this is about Beal’s floor game.
Out of all the Wizards TAI has previewed, Beal theoretically has the least at stake. In another sense, he also has the most to gain. He can display a significant jump toward superstardom, or just simply show the world that he can be a very good player. There’s a significant gap between the two, but either way, Wizards fans should feel good about the prospects and the road ahead.
Beal averaged 3.3 free throw attempts per 36 minutes last season. That put him on par with the Harrison Barneses, Evan Fourniers and Michael Kidd-Gilchrists of his rookie class. Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard was a hair better at 3.4 FTAs per 36 and likely future rival Dion Waiters was much better at 4.4 FTAs per 36. Now the rates of other notable NBA guards as rooks: Tyreke Evans (6.3 FTAs/36), Chris Paul (6.0), Russell Westbrook (5.8), Jimmy Butler (5.6), John Wall (5.4), Dwyane Wade (5.3), Rodney Stuckey (5.2), and James Harden (5.0).
Beal averaged .231 free throw attempts per field goal attempt. In comparison to a couple other primary Wizards last season, he got to the line less per attempt than the perimeter-focused Martell Webster (.311 FTAs per FGA), and obviously much less than Wall (.416 FTAs per FGA). Waiters’ rate was .249 FTAs per field goal attempt. He needs to find his way into the Butler/Wade range.
Beal came into the NBA with a reputation of being able to get to the line, built by day-after-day of charging to the rim as a kid against his mammoth, football-playing brothers at the local Y. In his very first NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas, Beal got to the line 10 times … and accusations of superstar calls began (and yes, that’s only summer league). Out of 56 contests as a rookie, Beal got to the line for 10 or more attempts in a game just once, and he only attempted six or more free throws in a game on five occasions. Overall, when Beal was on the court as a rook (1,745 minutes), Washington’s team free throw rate went down 1.4 percent—this can’t happen.
Perhaps all of this is not so much interesting as it is an area of needed improvement. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to monitor, especially as Beal is no longer “scared shitless” (Randy Wittman’s words) and is sure to find more of a comfort zone, see spacing better, and learn how to better attack while keeping ball-hawking defenders at bay.
[stats via NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com]
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
With Beal, the sky seems to be the limit, but the immediate room for improvement is evident. With Wall out to begin last season, the Wizards were unable to field a single player who could productively and efficiently create offense off the dribble.
Since we used the words “productive” and “efficient,” Jordan Crawford didn’t count. Going down the list, Jannero Pargo would probably be your joke mention before deciding that Martell Webster was the closest thing (but yet still so far away in reality.) Beal, just a 19-year-old pup at the beginning of last season, simply wasn’t ready.
But this summer, Beal was given his marching orders: John Wall desperately needs help; Beal must improve his ball-handling because, similarly to Wall, he will be relied upon to create offense (for himself or others) out of pick-and-roll action. As the preseason showed us, Beal has displayed the capability to significantly improve in this regard as the real season gets going. But there is still a long road ahead.
Such improvements aren’t just about getting to the rim and/or moving the defense and opening passing lanes, it’s also about where Beal can get his shots. The free throw line elbows are bread-and-butter areas for lots of pick-and-roll initiators. And as Beal’s 2012-13 shooting heat map graphic below shows, he needs to find those mid-range cushion areas for points a lot more—and this should naturally come as Wittman further integrates Beal as a lead offensive cog.
The Wizards will continue to rely on Beal’s outside shooting (3s!), and if anything, should find more ways within the offense to get him the ball, especially in the corners, as a spot-up shooter. But team brass also knows that Beal is investment 1a in their portfolio after Wall, so forcing the issue of making him a more complete player on offense in his sophomore year could (should) pay high dividends in the long run.