The Evolution of Bradley Beal | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Evolution of Bradley Beal

Updated: November 17, 2017

[original photo from @RealDealBeal23, with edit]

Washington’s 3-point ace has never shot below 38.6 percent on 3-pointers in a season. That low mark came in his rookie year. But in the early days of the 2017-18 season, Beal is shooting a career-low 34.2 percent. So how is this version of Beal his best yet? How did this version of Beal become the “best shooting guard in the East,” if you believe Paul Pierce?

Let’s start with collapsing the distance from beyond the 3-point line to the area just around the basket. Beal’s game at the hoop is almost unrecognizable this year: a career-high 78.4 percent shooting on shots under two feet from the basket. If you’ve watched the Wizards this season, you’ve seen this in action. Beal is much improved in close quarters, having refined his maneuvering to play to his enviable combination of athleticism and strength. Beal comes from a football family, and this season it finally shows. Pushing through contact while keeping his shoulders squared and his eye on the hoop, Washington’s suddenly sturdy shooting guard is taking more forays into the paint, and capitalizing rather than shrinking from the punishment he’s received there.

Watch Beal’s eyes here.

Beal’s 83.7 free throw percentage is a career high as well, but the real story is the free throw attempts, up to 6.6 per game, well above his previous best mark of 4.4 last season. All these numbers point to a very different Beal, a more aggressive version of the stocky dude with a perfect 3-point stroke, one that mixes in a little Dwyane Wade with the perhaps not-quite-right Ray Allen comparison of yesteryear. Beal’s newfound interest in mixing it up translates all across the board, too. His rebounding numbers are way up, currently averaging 4.9 per game, well above his previous career high of 3.8. All signs point to a burlier, surlier Beal.

Look at this guy.

I was at the Air Canada Centre for that bucket, and this video doesn’t quite do it justice. On another “layup” during the same game, Beal took contact at the basket, tipped horizontal like a kettle, but finished through it again.

In previous seasons, much of Beal’s production came on the fast break via John Wall handouts (nothing wrong with that!), but Beal has taken on more playmaking in his fifth year. Last year, 15.1 percent of Beal’s points came via the break. This season: 6 percent. In general, Beal is less reliant than ever on Wall to get his daily meal. For the first time ever, less than half of Beal’s field goals are assisted (45.7%).

It’s clear that Beal’s game is evolving, and it’s evolving in ways that are difficult to practice. Finishing through in-game contact can’t really be replicated without risking injury, a potentially embarrassing gaffe for anyone encouraging such.

It’s not time to worry about the 3-point shot (especially with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre picking up the slack), as Beal’s always been vulnerable to extended stretches of merely average 3-point shooting before going on a tear to bring his rate back up. For Beal, sustained production at the rim and recovered production beyond the arc will make nabbing an All-Star nod a formality.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.