Why is Bradley Beal So Frustrated?
What’s the deal with Bradley Beal?
That’s a good question. Through three games in 2014, he’s shooting 14-for-44 from the field (31.8%) and 3-for-10 from 3-point land. He’s only attempted one free throw (a technical foul on Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle), and he missed it. Forty-three percent of Beal’s shot attempts have come from midrange, where he’s just 4-for-19 (21.1%).
It’s hard to determine how much Beal’s shot selection—habitually relatively inefficient shots from midrange on the move—predicates his poor shooting. Maybe they’re just not falling; not all of Beal’s looks have been poor. At least this is what Beal points toward.
“I’m shooting the shots that the defense is giving me. It’s just a fact that the ball’s not going in, I guess,” he said in regard to his woes as of late after Sunday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. Otherwise, Beal understood all the talking-points after Washington’s third loss in as many games in 2014: more energy, “…and be a lot more aggressive, I guess,” and not letting other teams “take our house from us.”
After the New Year’s Day game against the Dallas Mavericks, Randy Wittman was critical of Beal’s ability to stay in games mentally when his own shot isn’t falling. Beal shot 4-for-13 against the Mavericks and at times showed visible frustration with his game, even after made baskets.
“We got a little frustrated. We got a little frustrated … a couple guys kind of put their heads down a little bit [after] missing another shot,” said the Wizards coach after losing to Dallas. “Eighty-two games, you’re going to have nights where you go 4-for-13 or whatever it is.”
The coach sees a failure in activity, or rather, Beal expending too much energy on getting frustrated with himself. And yet somehow the shot selection comes back to surface. Does Beal have to take what the defense gives him, or is there an opportunity to make the defense adjust to him, an opportunity to earn more trips to the free throw line?
“Yes and no,” said Beal, when asked after the Golden State game. “No, because the way they play. Sometimes they double-team on pick-and-rolls, and sometimes the big is all the way back, and if he’s back, coach will live with that shot any day. He tells me to take those shots.
“It’s just the fact that my shot’s not falling right now. It’s not like I’m in a slump or I’m losing confidence or anything like that. I mean, there are pretty good shots, it’s just a matter of fact in knocking down easy ones.”
He’s right. Sometimes midrange shots get a bad rap. Deemed inefficient by stats—and it’s hard to argue against such—but the numbers lack context. The sabermetrics are not advanced enough to thin-slice what caused a particular attempt. Did that midrange jumper come because a defending big man backed into the paint after a screen? Did it come as a result of a rhythm dribble and pull-up past a sprinting perimeter defender? Did the midrange jumper come via a pass from a hand-off screen from a big man? What are the percentages on these types of shots, ones that come via executed offense and “shots that the defensive is giving,” versus attempts off dribble creation or something else more individually forced, such as a Jordan Crawford step-back midrange jumper.
It often seems that, unless in transition, Beal is not even trying to get into the paint—catch ball, see initial space, fire. According to 82games.com, 88 percent of Beal’s attempts are jumpers and 42 percent of his attempts come with 10 or fewer seconds on the shot clock. Is there time for Beal to look for something better before settling for the shot he can get, for the shot the defense gives him? Perhaps. Beal must also consider: if he’s taking the shots the defense gives him, isn’t that exactly what the defense wants?
Beal’s shot will eventually start falling more, he’ll get more minutes (as his current minutes limit nears its end life … for now), and the rest of his game will pick up, too. These are learning moments for the 20-year-old kid who can seem so mature at times, but who still clearly has a lot of growing up to do.
Beal has nine total rebounds, 11 assists, and five turnovers in his 83 minutes over Washington’s three-game 2014 losing streak. These are not terrible rates, but they are signs that if Beal is looking for other ways to contribute, he’s not succeeding. One of Beal’s talents coming into the league was supposed to be rebounding, and the Wizards are counting on him to be more of a creator with the ball—it was his main homework assignment over the summer. But those areas currently suffer because his jump shot is suffering, and it’s a valid issue of concern, even if temporary.
“Yea, I think he scored all of nine in the first quarter … 4-for-6 … gotta play through it,” exclaimed an exasperated Wittman when asked about Beal’s game against the Warriors. Surely the coach is troubled by that one player, but his demeanor was also a build-up from issues with the entire team.
“Gotta be able to do other things. And then you can’t let it affect every other part of your game. You can’t,” was the coach’s definite ruling on (or plea with) the NBA soph. Beal will be alright. You just wonder how long it will take and if he will show growth from these current issues the next time he experiences an individual slump. As the Wizards find themselves in a team slump, they need Beal to wake up, and grow up, more than ever.