Bradley Beal is without question one of the best young guards in the league. The sweet shooting 21-year-old is already on path to have a very successful career in the league as he heads into his third season. People gush over Beal’s potential and what he has done in his first two seasons. However, I am one of his harshest critics and have gotten a ton of flack for not being all in on the Beal bandwagon.
Like any player in the league, there are things Beal must improve going into next season if he wants to continue to grow and become a potential All-Star. The most important thing for Beal to improve his shot selection and with that comes improvement in other areas.
So, there’s this myth that Beal is an elite shooter. Well, I hate to break it to you, but he’s not. At least not right now. And most of that has to do with his shot selection.
Effective field goal percentage is an advanced stat which adjusts for the fact that a three-point field goal is worth one more point than a two-pointer to gauge how effective of a shooter a player is. The league average of effective field goal percentage this season was 50.1 percent, according to Basketball-Reference.
Beal’s was 47.9 percent and considering he shot over 40 percent from three-point land, his below-average effective field goal percentage puts in perspective just how bad of a midrange shooter he was this year, a shot he relied on way too heavily. Beal was the only player in the entire league last year who played more than 60 games and shot over 40 percent from three, but had a effective field goal percentage of less than 50 percent.
So how can someone who has all the intangibles to be a good shooter (good lift, form, confidence, etc.) be this ineffective? It’s simple. To be an effective shooter, you have to take effective shots. Through all the advanced stats, we have learned that layups and three-pointers are the two most effective shots in this day in age. Beal must have not gotten the memo.
One of the worst shots is the long two-pointer, ranging from 16 feet to the three-point line. Unfortunately, that is where Beal took the most of his shots this season. He took 36.1 percent of his shots from the range of 16 feet to the three-point line. On those shots, he only made 37.3 percent of them.
You can notice that right elbow shot was one of Beal’s favorite shots and he struggled with it. However, that is not all on Beal. The Wizards offense strangely relied heavily on two-man action with Beal and a big. It was strange because it just put Beal in a tough situation. Very few young guards can master reading a defense and exploiting what they are giving you in their first couple years in the league.
When you can’t do that and are not a bonafide playmaker you are going to settle for long twos. And you are going to continue to settle for long jumpers if your coach does not do anything about it (*cough, cough* Randy Wittman).
Young players are rarely thinking plays ahead. When he gets the ball off one of those funky handoffs from a big and sees he has a an open jumper off the dribble, Beal and most other young guys are going to take it. As players play longer in the league, they begin to think a few steps ahead and Beal will soon realize that other things will develop rather than the first open shot he sees.
The biggest problem with Beal’s love for the midrange jumper was that it often stalled the Wizards offensive flow and took the ball out of John Wall‘s hands, their best playmaker. The Wizards offense was at their best when Wall was driving and kicking to shooters like Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Martell Webster. However, Beal’s negligence on the offensive end took that away often.
To also get rid of this habit, besides the Wizards being more creative on offense and getting him in more catch and shoot situations (58.2 percent effective field goal percentage on catch and shoots compared to 37.7 percent on pull up jumpers), Beal has to become more aggressive driving to the basket and making plays with the ball in his hands. He is way too talented to just be a jump shooter. He showed spurts last season of his ability to drive and finish at the hole, but it seemed like he never stuck with it.
For example, this play against the Hornets early in the first quarter where he picks up a loose ball and settles for a long, contested two-pointer. I would have liked to see him try and take Alexis Anjica baseline and either try to finish or set up a teammate.
Beal’s free throw rate confirms his inability (or unwillingness) to drive to the basket and make something happen whether it is finishing at the rim or getting fouled. Most of the time player gets fouled is when they are driving to the basket and being aggressive. The league average free throw rate (number of free throws to field goal attempts) was .215.
Beal’s was well below that at .164. He rarely attacked the basket and because of that he settled for long two-pointers. If Beal can improve as a ball handler and finisher, he will become more likely to go to the basket and we will see the long two begin to diminish. This will lead Beal to become a more effective offensive weapon.
Beal made strides in the Wizards to playoff series. He was the Wizards’ best player throughout the playoffs and while he wasn’t much more of an effective shooter (48.6 effective field goal percentage) he looked comfortable as the primary ball handler in the pick and roll and he also attacked the basket more (.277 free throw rate). I was much more optimistic about Beal moving forward after the playoffs than I was when the regular season ended.
Next year is a big year for Beal. A year where he can be an All-Star. However, if he is going to be an All-Star, he must improve his shot selection and shy away from the ruthless long twos. A big part of that is going to be him attacking the basket more often and with another year of experience and knowledge under his belt, I think we will see a much improved Bradley Beal next year.