Beal Growing Into His Own When the Wizards Need Him the Most | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Beal Growing Into His Own When the Wizards Need Him the Most

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Updated: November 24, 2016

A Wizards win is far from headline news. Monday night’s dubya against the middling Phoenix Suns seems to be so far removed from the radar of even the most avid Washington sports fan.

It wasn’t pretty.

It wasn’t even all that entertaining, but the bar has been set so low for a fanbase in need of some love that we’ll just have to take it.

Why not take in the instant gratification of celebrating a win in which the team’s highest paid player had his best game in a Wizards jersey? Bradley Beal may not have arrived as the second All-Star player that this franchise desperately needs, but his play over the last couple games has brought back a little return on investment in a prorated sense. For the first time in his career, Beal has scored 30 points in back-to-back games with his 34 point outing against the Heat (in a loss) and his career-high 42 points against the Suns. The Big Panda is finally displaying the confidence and assertiveness that many basketball purists have been expecting from him ever since his playoff explosion three years ago against the Bulls.

Beal is slowly but surely transforming his game to make it much more pleasing, both analytically and aesthetically. He is taking more 3-pointers than ever, and shooting them at a clip of 6.1 per game. While his percentage is down to 36 percent for the season from 39 percent for his career, an adjustment from the volume increase had to be expected. Beal hit 5-for-10 of his shots from deep and that wreaked havoc on the Suns’ defensive strategy.

Also on display: Beal’s ball handling, something he’s worked on over the course of his career. Creating off the bounce is a term thrown around in NBA circles and it usually is indicative of some sick crossover that leads to oohs and aahs from the crowd, but Beal has figured out away to do more with less when it comes to ball handling.

What Beal is becoming the master of is using simple dribbles to create enough to get off his shot, and from the triple-threat position he has been able to use the power power dribble to blow by defenders and get closer to the rim. Attacking the basket has allowed Beal to nearly double his free throws attempted per game from 2.9 over the course of his career to 5.1 attempts per game this season. Against the Suns, Beal earned 11 free throws, making nine.

Since Beal has returned from the hamstring injury that caused him to miss three games he has hit 20 of his last 22 free throws. Not only are the free throw attempts up for Beal, the free throw makes have seen a dramatic increase. Last season Beal shot a career low 76 percent from the charity stripe, but this season he is up to a career high 86 percent, which is much more in line with what an elite NBA shooter should be producing on free shots.

Watch him work:

I will give some of that credit to coach Scott Brooks, who made it a point of emphasis from media day to encourage Brad to get to the foul line. When Brooks was asked about Beal’s career night he made it clear that a part of his job is to push Brad:

“He’s a good basketball player. This guy, he can be one of the best two-way players in the league. My job is to continue to push him to strive for greatness. I think he has the ability to be one of the best in the league, being a two-way player and it’s hard to do that. It takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of inner drive and determination but I think he has the ability to be that player.”

To be a good two-way player would entail Beal being able to matchup against all of the best shooting guards in the Association, but so far this season the Wizards have shielded him from those responsibilities. The Phoenix Suns have one of the better young prospects in Devin Booker, and from the opening tip the Wizards decided that it would be better to get one of their more defensive oriented players on him in an attempt to slow him down. Otto Porter did a fairly good job on Booker limiting him to just 12 points, but when Otto went down in the third quarter with a hip injury, it was Kelly Oubre who drew the assignment of guarding Booker down the stretch. While Booker finished the game with 30 points, Oubre was still more than adequate at limiting the hot-shooters touches with great ball denials and hounding him with his length when Booker actually did get the ball.

The Wizards appeared to be more in sync on the defensive end, which is a great sign after Saturday’s debacle of defensive effort, but it wasn’t perfect by any standard. The Wizards allowed a 34-point explosion in the third quarter and just as easily could have blown the entire game because of a few mental lapses. The Suns were already without normal starting center Tyson Chandler, so Alex Len was essentially the only center in the rotation. The Suns went extremely small, and the Wizards struggled to counter initially with their most versatile defender (Porter) not playing much of the second half.

When I asked Brooks about how he matched up with the Suns and whether playing small would be a trend that we will see going forward, he made sure to point out that Phoenix’s lineup dictated a good part of that:

“I think you have to be able to do both. Phoenix, they’ve had some injuries and they went really small. I think it was like 6-5 and under league. It puts decisions on you plate. We have the ability to do that. Unfortunately, Otto [Porter Jr.] was hurt, because he’s one of our best small lineups at the four. You got to always explore different ways to get your team better and we have to continue to do that. It’s also guarding that small. It’s not easy to guard. You have to have guys that can defend and stop the dribble because now that you’re talking about paint and threes that’s what you look for in a in a small lineup.”

What I can see from just a small sample size of watching Scott Brooks coach this season is that he is much less rigid about playing any particular style or any set rotations. Unlike his predecessor, Randy Wittman, Brooks seems open to anything that will work. He has shown the courage to adjust on the fly if its in the best interest of the team, and the conviction to answer any and every question about his coaching decisions. That alone is a seriously promising sign for this squad.

And at 4-9 and only two games back of the 8-seed in the East, it’s far too early for this team to panic.

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.