Bradley Beal: 2013-14 Washington Wizards Player Review
TAI’s 2013-14 Washington Wizards player reviews… Now: Bradley Beal (by John C. Townsend).
Previously: Marcin Gortat (by Conor Dirks); Otto Porter (by Sean Fagan); Andre Miller (by Rashad Mobley); Drew Gooden(by John Converse Townsend); Kevin Seraphin (by Kyle Weidie); Trevor Ariza (by Conor Dirks); Martell Webster (by Adam Rubin); Al Harrington (by Kyle Weidie); Garrett Temple (by Adam Rubin); Trevor Booker (by Adam Rubin); Glen Rice, Jr. (by John Converse Townsend); Chris Singleton (by Kyle Weidie).
6-5 : Height
207 lbs. : Weight
21 : Age
2 : Years NBA Experience
1 : NBA Team
Drafted by the Wizards third overall in 2012.
Time as a Wizard in 2013-14
73 : Games
73 : Starts
2,530 : Minutes
NBA historical PER contribution equivalent:
maybe Isaiah Rider for the 1993-94 Minnesota Timberwolves (14.2)
maybe Ray Allen for the 1996-97 Milwaukee Bucks (14.6)
0.076 Win Shares/48 Minutes
NBA historical WS/48 contribution equivalent:
maybe Bobby Phills for the 1994-95 Cleveland Cavaliers (0.078)
maybe Jamal Crawford for the 2004-05 New York Knicks (0.075)
With Beal ON the court vs. off
The Wizards offense scored 1.5 more points per 100 possessions (OffRtg)
The Wizards defense allowed 1.6 points less per 100 possessions (DefRtg)
Plus/Minus per 48 minutes: plus-2.1
Numbers, per 36 Minutes
17.8 : Points
3.9 : Rebounds
0.3 : Blocks
1.0 : Steals
3.5 : Assists
1.8 : Turnovers
2.2 : Fouls
Beal had 1,568 offensive possessions with the Wizards that ended with a FGA, TO or FTs, and he scored 0.92 Points Per Possession (PPP) on those, ranked 203rd in the NBA (via Synergy Sports Technology). Defensively, he allowed 0.86 PPP over 886 possessions, ranked 148th in the NBA.
41.9% Field Goals (481-1,149)
40.2% 3-Pointers (138-343)
78.8% Free Throws (149-189)
What did we expect?
“It keeps sticking in my mind… Bradley Beal is ‘presidential,'” Kyle Weidie wrote in his 2013-14 player preview, back in October.
“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.
“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.”
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,” read a Wizards press release sent by team officials over the Interweb wires on November 26, 2013.
“WIZARDS INJURY UPDATE,” it continued.
What followed was an announcement that Bradley Beal had been diagnosed by team doctors (following an MRI exam) with a stress injury to his proximal fibula (that’s the upper end), and that he would miss two weeks and then be re-valuated. This was the second stress injury to Beal’s right fibula (though to a different spot along the bone) in just a few months. Not good news…
At the time of Beal’s injury, the Wizards were 5-8, what seemed like miles away from .500. But not for lack of trying. Young Bradley Beal, for one, was playing more than 40.2 minutes a night, among the league leaders in minutes and distance covered per game. In his 13 appearances before being sidelined, Beal averaged 20.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
In his last game before injury, a 98-89 win over the New York Knicks on Nov. 23, Beal’s “closer mentality” impressed TAI special guest Alex MacMullan, who was covering the game live from the Verizon Center:
“He was able to put in eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. In that period he also accomplished a feat that no other Wiz player was able to match—providing a convertible scoring opportunity for AirWolf.”
In early December, two weeks after Beal’s leg bone was beginning to splinter, the sophomore guard was cleared to increase “basketball activities” after a follow-up MRI exam “showed improvement in the stress injury to his right fibula.”
On December 16, Beal made his comeback, in The Garden. He won the game for the Wizards.
Here’s TAI’s Sean Fagan with the recap:
“To set the scene: With 24 seconds left in the game the Wizards trailed by one point, having frittered away a 15-point lead, and were inbounding the ball. The Knicks had a foul to give, three timeouts remaining, and about 10 million different ways to play out the situation.
“Here is how the situation played out in real time: Wall handed the ball off to Bradley Beal near the top of the 3-point line, who then blew by Beno Udrih for an uncontested layup to put the Wizards ahead 102-101. The Knicks then ran pellmell down the court and Carmelo Anthony heaved a desperation 3-pointer off the glass to give the Wizards the game.
“Bradley Beal made his return from injury, and though he looked hobbled, he took over the game for the Wizards in the fourth quarter after it appeared that the Wizards were going to perform a miracle and not only let the Knicks win but also piece back together the various bits and bobs that comprise J.R. Smith’s career.”
It’s important to make note of these moments of greatness for the budding star in Beal—they’re moments worth celebrating, victories for the team.
But it’s just as important to note that, for much of the year, Beal was not great… Greatly inefficient at best:
- In 17 games during February, Beal scored 15.2 points on 14.9 attempts per game. In eight of those 17 games, he had more field goal attempts than points.
- In 13 games during March, Beal scored 16.1 points on 15.4 attempts per game. In seven of those 13 games, he had more field goal attempts than points.
- In 16 games during April, Beal scored 17.1 points on 16.0 attempts per game. In five of those 16 games, he had more field goal attempts than points; in another three, Beal had as many points as shots.
A very obvious part of Beal’s inefficiency issues was an over-reliance on 15-to-19 foot jumpers, statistically recognized as the worst shot in the game. Beal finished the season having taken the eighth-most midrange jump shots (331) in the NBA, despite shooting just 38.1 percent (which ranks 49th out of 50 among players who attempted at least 150 midrange Js, ahead of Jarrett Jack by 0.1%).
“Part of the reason that Wall and Beal get so many 15-to-19 foot shots seems to be the prevalence of hand-off screens away from the paint,” wrote TAI’s Conor Dirks in an investigation of the Wizards’ offensive problems. “But another, perhaps more important reason is that open 15-to-19 foot shots are often the first look a player will get when progressing a possession within the 3-point line in a one-on-one situation. There may be another hypothetically better shot as the possession progresses, but John Wall and Bradley Beal do not yet exhibit the patience of a player like Chris Paul, who will sadistically measure a possession in coffee spoons until opportunity presents itself. It is this patience and proven discretion that makes Paul the poster boy for Kirk Goldsberry’s newest baby, the expected possession value (“EPV”) metric.”
Equally frustrating was that Beal, a great 3-point shooter, was turning down open 3s for long, often more-contested midrange attempts. And because he was attacking the hoop as often as Nick Young (for those keeping track at home, that’s not very often), he rarely got to the free throw line. In fact, he failed to register a single free throw attempt in 19 games this past regular season (despite playing an average of 31 minutes in those games—as little as 25 minutes and as many as 43 minutes).
Then everything changed, seemingly overnight.
In eight games in April, Beal averaged 19.1 points on 14.5 shots per game. In a 96-86 win over the Magic, Beal scored 16 points on 10 shots, and shot double-digit free throws. And in the final game of the regular season, Beal scored 27 points on just 14 attempts, out-scoring the Celtics’ bench by 12 and nearly out-scoring the Wizards’ bench (28), too. His 14 field goal attempts were the fewest he attempted last season when scoring 27 or more points. “Miraculous. A volume shooter no more,” I proclaimed.
That’s something I would repeat before Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers, with Beal having led the Wiz in scoring in five of their nine playoff games to that point. That Bradley Beal kid had finally grown up.
Over on Grantland, before Game 5, NBA know-it-all Zach Lowe called it an “emergence” in a feature about “The Washington School of Witchcraft and Wizardry”:
“Beal, still just 20, has done more than spot up in the playoffs. He has emerged as a capable secondary ball handler, flashing a collection of wily moves on all sorts of pick-and-rolls. He has often supplanted Wall as the team’s top clutch option, jacking more crunch-time shots than Wall in the playoffs after attempting about the same number during the regular season on a per-minute basis. He made massive plays down the stretch in Game 1 against Indy, and in Games 2 and 3 in Washington’s grinding five-game win over the Bulls.”
In that magical Wizards playoff run, when Bradley Beal attacked in the pick-and-roll (often wiggling toward the left side of the floor), Washington scored 1.066 points per possession, including pick-and-rolls in which Beal passed to a teammate who then shot the rock. As Lowe pointed out, that’s about what LeBron James averaged for the 2013-14 season. Massive.
Against the Chicago Bulls, Beal averaged 19.8 points on 15.0 attempts per game.
Against the Pacers, Beal averaged 18.7 points on 17.0 attempts per game.
The key difference between perfectly adequate Brad and “Pig Panda” wasn’t a significant reduction in midrange jumpers, though he did attempt 0.2 midrange attempts per game less in the playoffs than he did during the regular season (albeit shooting four percentage points worse). It was instead a significant increase in free throw attempts. Being able to create contact and get to the free throw line is a huge development for a young player like Beal, and it was a welcome sight for Wizards watchers. (The free throw may very well be the most valuable shot in basketball.)
Look at the month-by-month breakdown:
Beal’s FTA per game
November : 2.8
December : 1.3
January : 1.9
February : 2.6
March : 3.1
April : 3.5
Playoffs : 4.5
All in all, despite a disappointing season finale versus an underachieving Indiana team, Beal had a successful season. Big Panda competed in the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend, finishing in second place behind Marco Belinelli, finished second on the team in scoring (17.1 points per game), and even recorded two game-winners (in Washington’s season sweep against the Knicks). That’s a basketball cherry on top of the sundae chock full of acrobatic finishes and ice-cold jumpers during the postseason.
Does his play during 2013-14 qualify as a significant, presidential jump toward superstardom? I’m not quite sure, objectively speaking, but he certainly showed the world he can be—and will be—a very good player for many years to come.
Better shot selection (shot selection, shot selection). Better smack talk, learned from Paul Pierce. And since Beal is expected to work out with John Wall in both St. Louis and at the Verizon Center in D.C., it’s probably safe to assume that Beal will enter the 2014-15 season with even tighter handles, and a better grasp on how to beat defenses as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll.
“We do whatever it takes to teach each other skills—him (Wall) how to shoot, and me how to dribble,” Beal said in 2013. “And just to read certain situations. It’s going to help us get better as a team.”
Beal also made the cut for the 19-man Team USA summer roster, which means he’ll get coached up by some of the best basketball minds in the game today, and have a chance to compete for a spot on the 12-man World Cup roster. He’s not likely to make it, and would have to outperform more established talents like James Harden, Klay Thompson, Gordon Hayward, and Kyle Korver, but the experience will be good for him.
Also, expect to see Beal representing the Wizards at All-Star Weekend in February 2015. Whether he can do enough between November and January to strut his stuff on the hardwood at Madison Square Garden in the All-Star game remains to be seen, but he should be a lock to make a second straight appearance in the 3-point shootout—Brooklyn’s hosting.
And, of course, more cheesin’ as he trots back on D after made baskets.
- Gotta go with Beal’s Game 2 performance against the Bulls in Chicago. He had 26 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block, plus he erased a seven-point Bulls’ lead in the fourth quarter and hit a clutch free throw with less than a minute to play to force OT. That gave him a 5-star rating in the eyes of one TAI staffer (no arguments).
- The Bad Brad Beal that woke up on the wrong side of the bed and had a no good, very bad day against the Golden State Warriors. Here’s Kyle with the reax: “Beal started hot, going 4-for-6 in the first quarter, but also letting Klay Thompson too easily get the best of him on a couple occasions. Then, Beal absolutely disappeared. Andre Igoudala guarded him more, shut him down (Beal went 0-for-9 over the rest of the game after the first quarter), and all that was left was frustrated, pouty body language.”