Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
The third pick in a deep draft, Bradley Beal arrives in Washington with enormous expectations. How will the former Gator's game translate to the NBA?
You couldn't design a better backcourt mate for John Wall than Bradley Beal. A 6'5 shooting guard with a gorgeous jump shot, great intangibles, and the ability to play on or off the ball, Beal is going to fit right in on a team with a ball dominant point guard and very little in the way of outside shooting.
Hardly anyone expects Beal to be a bust. The problem, though, is that he might not become a star. Beal's main selling point is an outside shot that has earned him comparisons to a young Ray Allen. While Beal's jumper looks incredible, the results were a bit more average during his lone season of NCAA basketball. He is a good rebounder and seems like he'll be able to handle the ball a bit at the NBA level, but unless he's a 38%+ three point shooter, he's going to be more good than great.
Many fans don't seem to truly grasp the importance of Beal (and, to a lesser extent, last year's lottery pick Jan Vesely) to the Wizards' long-term future. Teams can win in the NBA with a bunch of good players, but come playoff time, those organizations always seem to underperform. This isn't because players just "turn it on" in May. Rather, it's simple resource management - playoff games are far more important than regular season ones, so team's shorten their rotations in order to get the most minutes out of their top players. Washington could very well assemble a decent team consisting of John Wall and a half dozen good players, sort of like the roster Denver has constructed, but they aren't going to win a title using that model, not when teams like the Heat can just play their all-world starters for 45 minutes a night for seven games.
The District of Columbia is a great place to live and has enough diversity to accommodate anyone. What it lacks, though, is the drawing power of a New York or LA, or the basketball history of a Chicago or Boston. The kind of All-NBA running mates necessary for John Wall to win a title aren't coming in free agency, and the organization hasn't demonstrated the talent evaluation savvy to steal one in a trade. As a result, the Wizards need to draft at least one more superstar to pair with Wall, and the addition of vets like Nene and Emeka Okafor mean that they're unlikely to have a top five draft pick this season. Bradley Beal may very well be the Wizards' last shot at a future superstar, and his development could make or break the franchise's long-term future.
Offense: Beal will be one of the NBA's best players at coming off of screens for jumpers, but there's a lot more to his game than this. Not a natural slasher, Beal nonetheless has shown a solid ability to get to the basket and either drop in a floater or draw contact (0.84 free throw attempts per two point attempt, an excellent rate for a player who is most comfortable shooting jumpers).
Beal's high basketball IQ should also help him to do more than merely score points. He's a solid ball handler and passer who should be able to run the occasional pick and role. Primarily a small forward in college, he looked surprisingly good handling the ball in the Summer League, a skill that will prove extremely useful for a team that lacks any reliable playmakers aside from Wall and Jordan Crawford.
The only potential problem for Beal is his accuracy. Truly great shooters generally shoot better than Beal's 34% from beyond the arc, even as freshmen. Perhaps even more significantly, Beal's 77% shooting from the charity stripe is far worse than the high 80s mark typical of great shooters.
Defense: Slightly undersized without off the charts hops, Beal will likely struggle on defense this year. He's smart and tries, though, and should eventually become an at least average defender. Next year will be rough, though, especially when Washington faces big or physical shooting guards like Dwyane Wade or Joe Johnson.
One area where he should be able to contribute immediately is on the glass. Beal averaged 7.9 rebounds per 40 minutes, an outstanding number that offers hope that he's more athletic than advertised. He's unlikely to rebound at his college rate in the pros, but 5 or 6 rebounds per 40 minutes this year isn't out of the question.
Outlook: Beal will most likely have a solid rookie year and finish the season as the team's starting shooting guard. Whether he makes an All-Rookie team will be largely dependent on how accurate he is from long range, but his young age - Beal is only 19 and one of the youngest players in the draft - and work ethic offer cause for optimism, though.
Best case scenario: Gets buckets, boards, and cements himself as the Wizards shooting guard of the future.
Worst case scenario: Shoots worse than he did in college, is overwhelmed by the athleticism of the NBA, and is relegated to the bench faster than you can say "Xavier Henry".
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