Progress, You Say? Bradley Beal and Long 2-Pointers | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Progress, You Say? Bradley Beal and Long 2-Pointers

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Updated: December 15, 2014

[The Mind of Beal, via @ConorDDirks]

[The Mind of Beal, via @ConorDDirks]

If you’re going to complain about Randy Wittman’s offense of abundant midrange 2-pointers then you also have to lob some complaints to the shot selection of John Wall and Bradley Beal. But it’s easier and not wholly unnatural to pick on the coach instead of the young pups. Wittman must know that, in lockstep with statistics, he’d rather have his team either attacking the rim or shooting 3-pointers instead of “settling for what the defense gives them.” But the coach must also balance that with maintaining a level of confidence in his learning players, as well as using the midrange area as a channel to something better (and not the primary firing zone in an offensive system). It’s certainly not so simple, at least not as simple as making assumptions about Wittman’s awareness of new school principles in a changing pro basketball game.

BUT … what if the evidence started to convey that one of those Wiz Kids, the natural shooter, was finding his path to more efficient offense. Eventually, the rock that the stonecutter has been pounding starts to crack. Eventually, maybe Wittman’s offense won’t be such a glaring, swollen thumb—and instead, it’ll get lost via everyone basking in what a great team defense Washington fronts, as well as how well they share the ball from position 1 to 5. It all just might be the start of something better.

Jumping Point.

Beal wasn’t playing alarmingly poorly before Wittman ran a play to get him a game-winning chance on a lob pass with 0.8 seconds left in Orlando, but that doesn’t mean that such an act can’t do wonders for Beal’s confidence going forward.

Bradley Beal made his season debut on November 19, after missing nine games (and his fair share of summer workouts) with a broken wrist on his non-shooting hand. Without Beal, the Wizards went 7-2. With him they have gone 10-4 and upped their offensive statistical benchmarks across the board—slightly, but enough to make a difference.


2014-15
Wizards
Without Beal
(9 gms)
With Beal
(14 gms)
Points / 100 poss.

102.7

104.8

Assists / 100 poss.

18.5

19.6

eFG%

49.4%

51.8%

Pace

95.5

96.3


Without Beal healthy, the Wizards scored 102.7 points per 100 possessions; with Beal, 104.8. Other areas have also incrementally improved since Washington’s first nine games of the season: assists per 100 possessions, 18.5 to 19.6; Effective FG% (which factors a 3-point shot being worth more than a 2), 49.4% to 51.8%; and Pace (possessions per 48 minutes), 95.5 to 96.3.

The Wizards average 104 points per 100 possessions on the season, tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for 13th-most in the league. In Beal’s 460 minutes the Wizards have averaged 105.1 points (OffRtg), which would rank 12th. In the 659 minutes Beal hasn’t played, Washington’s OffRtg is 103.2, which would rank 17th in the NBA.

As expected, the third-year player had some rust to knock off in his return. This is on top of the general roadblocks Beal, still the 23rd-youngest player in the NBA this season (and younger than Otto Porter), must overcome to continue on the same accelerated career trajectory. Beal still must learn to finish at the rim, get to the free throw line, and not let missed shots affect his overall game and body language. But his jumper has been as smooth as ever and his defense continues to get better with age. He’s seeing passing lanes better, too. Most importantly, Beal is addressing one key statistical criticism so far: a reliance on long 2-pointers (and shots made difficult otherwise).

According to Basketball-Reference.com:

  • 15.1% of Beal’s field goal attempts last season came within three feet; that number was 17.6% during his rookie year.
  • Now: 21.3% of Beal’s shots come within three feet. Progress!
  • Furthermore, 36.1% of Beal’s shots last year were long 2-pointers (between 16-feet and the 3-point line); that number was 31.9% his rookie year.
  • Now: 28.4% of Beal’s attempts are long, inefficient 2s. More progress!
  • Plus, Beal’s shooting percentages and efficiency will probably further improve. He now scores 24.1 points on 20.4 shots per 100 possessions. Last season he attempted three more shots but scored just 1.3 points more. Additional progress, seemingly.

According to player tracking data from NBA.com:

  • 35% of Beals FG attempts come via catch-and-shoot, up from 32.1% last season—he is shooting slightly less catch-and-shoots of the 2-point variety and slightly more of the 3-point variety. Ideal.
  • Beal now has an eFG of a 65.6% on all catch-and-shoots, up from 56.8% in 2013-14.
  • Beal is now taking less pull-ups (36.1% of his attempts, down from 45.4%), which is good since he is now making those at a much less frequent rate (34.1 eFG% down from 37.7%). Elementary: players, even good shooters, generally shoot worse off the pull-up dribble than they do when they just have to catch and … well, shoot.
  • 29% of Beal’s attempts now come within 10 feet, up from just 19.8% last season (and he’s improved to making these shots 60.4% of the time from 57%).

“At this point in their careers, is Beal really that much better than Redick?” asked one Los Angeles blogger before the Clippers game last Friday.

During that game, J.J. Redick was the closest defender for 10 of Bradley Beal’s field goal attempts. Beal made five of those shots (11 total points), and four attempts came inside 16 feet (2-4 FGs). Redick shot 3-for-6 with Beal as the closest defender (7 points), and all attempts came outside of 16 feet. Beal totalled 29 points on 17 shots (4-7 3P, 7-8 FTs); Redick scored 10 points on nine shots (1-2 3P, 1-1 FTs).

Is Beal that much better than Redick? I think this Clipperblogger got his answer watching Beal record his season-high. (Beal is also shooting 7% better from 3.)

To see Beal work to get better shots is not surprising, considering he emerged as more of a dribble-drive and pick-and-roll threat as last season progressed. Evidence of Beal’s continued improvement this season is not just in the statistical pudding, but it can also be found in the eye-test, via Vine. Let’s watch…

He’s taking better, more efficient two-point shots closer to the rim by using his improved handles and court vision to find lanes, make space.

Sometimes Beal is getting all the way to the rim and is using his body to better shield defenders from blocking his shot.

Some long, midrange 2s are OK, such as when Beal catches-and-shoots via a nice bounce pass from Wall, a screen from Kris Humphries, and plenty of comfortable spacing.

Beal is also becoming smarter about using his body and feet on defense, but NOT his hands. Just look at the way he frustrates Rajon Rondo without really laying a finger on him.

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.