Coming into this season there was a lot of talk about Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, He and the Wizards were in talks for an extension and the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. For all intents and purposes Beal bet on himself this season and despite a minor injury it looks as if Beal is a new player. At this point in the season Bradley Beal is averaging 22 points per game while shooting 48% from the field and an absurd 47% from three. He’s had moments before in his career, a five game stretch of hot shooting, but this seems to be sustainable Not only is it just the natural improvement of a 22-year-old NBA player, but the Wizards are playing differently.
One thing that anyone who has followed this team will notice is that Beal is taking more threes, almost two more threes per game. Again, he’s shooting 47% from three. This is what Wizards fans envisioned when they drafted Beal, who is blessed with an absolutely gorgeous shooting stroke. It’s easy to say the Wizards are playing at a faster pace so Beal is getting more possessions, it’s not entirely true. Bradley is averaging 7.7 three pointers attempted per 100 possessions, up from 6.3 last season. In fact, Beal is averaging the most three point attempts per 100 possession of his young career. Part of the reason for this is the Wizards new emphasis on space, last season teams didn’t allow Beal the space to get open looks from behind the arc, nor were the Wizards as concerned with creating looks from three as they are this year.
Another factor of the strong play of Beal so far in this season is that he’s also seeming to drive more, (per NBA.Com) Beal is scoring 38% of his points this year in the paint compared to 31% last season. He’s shooting more three’s, 35% compared to 33% last year Beal has seen his percentage of points off of long two’s plummet. From 22% last season to only 14% this year. This has seen Beal’s efficiency numbers go up from a TS% of 52% last year to 58% this season, while also having his usage go up from 22% usage rate to 27% usage rate this year.
While the shooting numbers are amazing, Beal and the Wizards do have some very pressing issues they have to clean up during the course of the season. The two biggest issues for Beal and the Wizards in general right now are turnovers and defense. Last season the Wizards were a top ten defensive unit, this season that’s not the case. Despite Beal’s defensive rating remaining pretty much the same as last season, the team as a whole looks out of sorts at times on that end and are giving up five more points per 100 possessions.
It’s easy to blame this on the new small-ball line up, but that wouldn’t be true. Washington’s starting lineup only allows a solid 96.6 points per 100 possessions, the issue is really the Wizards bench. The second unit hasn’t been able to put it together just yet, it’s especially bad when John sits.
The turnovers are another thing, most of it is just being too careless with the ball. Brad in particular, has seen his turnover ratio go up from 9.9 to 13.8 per 100 possessions. This is something that I believe will get better as the team gets used to playing at this tempo.
While it’s still early and the sample size is very small (only six games so far this season), it’s very likely that as long as he stays healthy Beal can continue this strong play all season. If he’s able to do that, his offseason bet on himself should pay off in a big way next offseason.