The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in a Bradley Beal trade but the presence of Anthony Davis makes it a less than stellar fit on both sides.
The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly looked into the possibility of acquiring Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards on multiple occasions. Shams Charania of The Athletic told Complex’s Load Management podcast that the team had checked Beal’s availability at different points throughout the past couple of years.
What would be Beal’s role be if he were acquired by the Lakers via trade this offseason? He would be a spot-up shooter. LeBron James has spent this entire season trying to appease the desires of contending free agent Anthony Davis as he wants to chip away at the notion that it was hard to play with him.
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Around the league, players, including some of his teammates, have noticed that James forced his costars to become three-point shooters regardless of his skill set. His former teammates Kevin Love told Chris Haynes in 2014 that he experienced a dramatic shift in his game upon arriving in Cleveland.
Before Cleveland, Kevin Love got most of his touches down in the low post. But upon arriving in Cleveland, he started receiving most of his touches behind the three-point line, which resulted in him shooting more threes.
James’ reputation has caused stars like Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George who previously stated a desire to play for the Los Angeles Lakers to change their mind upon his arrival and play elsewhere. James’ inability to land a big free agent forced him to change his ways. He informed Anthony Davis before being traded to Los Angeles that Davis would dictate organizational decisions.
The impact of James’ decision was immediately felt within the organization, as Davis told the media during his introductory press conference that he preferred to play power forward as he didn’t like the center position’s physicality.
Therefore the Lakers decided to sign two big men in free agency in JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard to share the minutes at the center position. Davis’ reluctance to play center has led to him sharing the court with Howard and McGee for 21.9 minutes per game, over 60 percent of his playing time.
Anthony Davis’s overarching impact
Davis’ influence over the organization continues to be felt throughout the offseason as James told the media in training camp that the team would be running a post-up centric offense.
This is because Davis has a track record of thriving in the low post during his first nine years in New Orleans. Davis shot 42.7 percent from the field on 3.5 attempts per game over his last four seasons in New Orleans. The field goal percentage helped him generate 3.9 points in 6.7 possessions per game. The low post-production accounted for 14.6 percent of his scoring output.
Davis’ history of success in the low post is the driving force behind the team being second in the league in post-up possessions averaging 14.5 per game. Davis is responsible for more than 60 percent of those possessions, as he is averaging 9 per game.
Davis has performed to expectation during these possessions as he is shooting 45.6 percent on 3.7 field goal attempts per game, allowing him to create 4.7 points. Post ups account for 17.6 percent of his scoring output as he is averaging 26.7 points.
The combination of Los Angeles running a post-up centric offense and Davis’ unwillingness to play center has shrunk floor spacing for the rest of the team as two defenders are near the basket at all times.
Consequently, perimeter players have been forced to spend a significant amount of time in the role of a floor spacer. Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso, Danny Green, James, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Rajon Rondo are taking at least 32 percent of their field goal attempts from behind the arc.
Therefore, Beal would predominantly be a spot-up shooter with the Los Angeles Lakers. Fortunately, Beal has a track record of thriving as a spot-up shooter as he has made 40.4 percent of his catch and shoot threes on 4.0 attempts per game throughout his career.
Beal’s talents would be squandered with the Lakers
Although Beal would thrive as a spot-up shooter, the Lakers wouldn’t be getting the most out of him. Beal is at his best when he can combine his on and off the ball skills. Beal is having his best statistical season because he is averaging a career-high 79 touches per game. The 79 touches have given Beal more opportunities to generate offense as he is averaging 9.5 pick and rolls per game.
He is shooting 47.3 percent from the field on 7.1 shot attempts per game.’ Beal’s field goal percentage helped him amass 9.3 points per game out of the pick-and-roll.
Beal has been able to pair his on the ball success with excellent off the basketball work as he is making 38 percent of his catch and shoot threes on 4.4 attempts per game. Catch and shoot threes and pick and rolls have accounted for 47.2 percent of his scoring output as he is averaging a career-high 30.5 points per game.
However, there is a potential benefit to Beal having a lesser offensive role as it would give him a chance to improve his defensive reputation. Beal was considered one of the worst defenders in the league before the All-Star break.
Beal ran 1.19 miles at an average speed of 3.74 miles per hour. Consequently, Beal had struggled to defend isolations before the All-Star break as he allowed the 8th highest scoring rate, 1.36 points per possessions. Beal’s isolation struggles played a vital role in the team’s defense being 10.9 points worse with him on the floor.
Beal’s defensive struggles are related to the increased offensive workload. Beal has seen a 6.2 percent increase in touches going from 74.4 to 79 per game. The uptick in touches has given him more opportunities to attack the basket as he has seen a 26.8 percent increase in drives going from 12.7 to 16.1 per game.
The increased workload has contributed to Beal decreasing his defense effort as he is prioritizing the conservation of energy to be ready for the next offensive possession. A prime example of this can be found late in the first quarter of a home game against the Atlanta Hawks when Beal was guarding Cam Reddish on the right-wing. Reddish proceeded to jog over towards the top of the key to receive a pass from Treveon Graham.
Once Reddish received the ball, Bruno Fernando set a screen attempting to initiate a pick and roll possession. Reddish rejected the screen to shoot a three as he was wide open because Beal made a half-hearted attempt to fight over the pick.
If Beal went to Los Angeles, he would improve his defense because he can afford to spend more energy due to the lesser offensive role. One of Beal’s best defensive seasons came in 2015. Beal touched the basketball 51.3 times per game during the 2015-16 season. The 51.3 touches limited him to 7.4 drives per game.
The reduced role allowed him to spend more energy on defense as he ran 1.07 miles at an average speed of 3.98 miles per hour. His effort contributed to him giving up a scoring rate on isolations of 0.79 points per possessions.
His defensive production on isolations contributed to the team outscoring opponents by 1.8 points per game with him on the floor. Unfortunately, the combination of these factors indicates that the team shouldn’t pursue a Beal trade due to his contract. Beal is scheduled to make at least $28 million in each of the next 3 seasons.
Therefore, the team will have to include Green and Caldwell-Pope in the trade offer for salary purposes as well as young assets like Caruso and Kuzma to give the Wizards building blocks for the future. The Lakers would realistically be giving up too much for a player in Beal who would be a spot-up shooter on the team.
The team would be better off pursuing a cheaper option such as Tony Snell, who most likely will opt into a $12.1 million player option for next season. Snell has a track record of thriving as a spot-up shooter making 38 percent of his catch and shoot threes on 3 attempts per game.
He is also a significantly better defender than Beal as Snell is giving up a scoring rate on isolations of 0.86 points per possessions. His defensive production on isolations contributed to the team outscoring opponents by 0.8 points per game with him on the floor. More importantly, the team would only have to give up Kuzma and Pope to acquire Snell.