Bradley Beal is the Most Overrated Player in Basketball

beal

I don’t think Bradley Beal is all that good at basketball.

Boom. I said it. Can we stop pretending this guy deserves a max contract over summer? I’m just not sure what the appeal is.

His selling point is supposed to be his three-point shooting. And yes, 39.7% is solid on its face. But really look at his numbers and they aren’t quite so impressive. He’s made 440 three-pointers in his career. Stephen Curry made 402 this season. Beal has more career turnovers (453) than made three-pointers. He should have made quite a bit more, but he wastes his time with just as many bad shots.

Beal takes almost 12% of his shots as two-pointers 10-16 feet away from the rim. That’s not good. He also takes 29.1% of his shots as two-pointers beyond 16 feet. That’s horrific. That’s a higher career percentage than Kobe Bryant, king of the long two.

What’s worse is that Beal doesn’t even make those shots. His career percentage on two-pointers beyond 16 feet? A paltry 36.3%. That produces an expected .726 points per possession; a shot is considered bad anywhere below 1 PPP.

He may provide a fair bit of value on three’s, but that value is diminished with all of those long two’s strictly because they’re three’s he isn’t taking. At 39.7%, a Bradley Beal three-pointer produces almost 1.2 points per shot. Yet he takes almost as many long two’s despite them being substantially less efficient. Even if he were taking more three’s, we also can’t ignore the fact that his percentage is unfairly boosted. Why? John Wall.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 15: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards celebrates after hitting a three pointer against the New Orleans Hornets during the first half at Verizon Center on March 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

John Wall does a better job of creating three-point shots for teammates than any point guard in basketball. That’s obvious on tape, but even more so on the stat sheet. Trevor Ariza shot 40.7% from long range in his final season in Washington, with Wall. That fell to 35% with James Harden in Houston. Paul Pierce fell from 38.9% last season to just 31% this season and he’s playing with Chris Paul. The list goes on and on. Every shooter who leaves John Wall regrets it.

And, sure enough, the numbers show just how much Wall means to Beal. The sample is small, but it’s worth noting that in Beal’s first 31 games he shot only 32.3% from long range. Wall was injured during that stretch. When he returned? Beal shot 46.6% on three’s the rest of the season. Some of that is natural growth from a rookie, but it’s also an increase of almost 50%. The John Wall effect is quite real.

And this all relates to Beal’s best trait. Honestly, he doesn’t bring much more to the table.

He is a decent enough driver, making just over 53% of his field goals on such plays, but he also rarely draws fouls. He attempts only 4.3 free throws per 100 possessions. To compare him to another player who takes too many long two’s, DeMar DeRozan attempts 12 free throws per 100 possessions.

Beal is also something of a ball-stopper. His own assist numbers are unimpressive (4.6 per 100 possessions), but what’s more telling is his effect on Washington’s offense. The Wizards assist on 17.9% of baskets when he is on the floor and 18.4% when he’s off of it. That difference doesn’t seem significant until you remember who he typically plays with.

Bradley Beal played 1,708 minutes in the 2015-16 season. He played 1,239 with John Wall on the floor. So he plays almost 75% of his minutes with the best passer in basketball on the floor… and his team still moves the ball better without him.

Bradley-Beal-All-Defensive-First-Team-Washington-Wizards

And he’s not exactly a lockdown defender either. Washington’s defense improved by nearly three points per possession (105.2 down to 102.4) when Beal sat this season, and that makes sense. He’s somewhat undersized as a modern shooting guard at 6’5” and his 6’8” wingspan is below average for an NBA player his height, and he’s not helping himself by jogging through defensive possessions with a pedestrian average speed of 3.91 miles per hour. He isn’t a disaster defensively, but he’s not doing much good either.

But look on the bright side, you won’t always have to suffer through Beal’s flaws if you pay him the max, he’ll miss a solid chunk of every season no matter what! He misses around 20 games per season and has never come particularly close to playing a full 82-game schedule. Think that’s going to get better as he gets older and richer? Doubtful.

So I’m just not sure I see the appeal of reaching for Bradley Beal this summer. He’s an unspectacular player whose potential is bandied about largely on the strength of his draft slot. If anyone objects, speak now or forever hold your team’s cap sheet.

6 thoughts on “Bradley Beal is the Most Overrated Player in Basketball”

  1. Hi, Sam. I am a big fan of the Washington Wizards and couldn’t help but come across your article called “Bradley Beal is the Most Overrated Player in Basketball”. I just want to say that I highly disagree with the whole article. First of all, that first sentence was totally uncalled for. You don’t think he’s “all that good” at basketball? He’s an NBA starter and is one of the 30 finalists for the 2016 USA Olympic Team. I don’t know about you, but I surely don’t think they would pick a bad player as a finalist for their team. Second of all, you managed to list all his flaws, but didn’t even mention his many plusses that is the main reason him and John Wall are in contention for best backcourt in the league. Take the 2015 playoffs for example. During the Wizards sweep of the Raptors in the first round, Beal proved he can play very well on the big stage. Also not to mention his many game winners, including one against the Spurs, the best defensive team in the league. Third of all, you talked a lot about his injuries. And while he is an injury prone person, that does not mean he still can’t be a big player in this league. Steph Curry has had many ankle injuries in the past and now he is one of the best players in the world right now. Having a lot of injuries does not make a person “overrated”. Fourth of all, you mentioned him not being a good defensive player. I can list so many great offensive all star players that aren’t very good on the defensive side. For example, James Harden is the best player on his team and he is terrible at defense. Guards aren’t on the floor to be good at defense. That is the centers job. Fifth of all, he is 22 years old. Most people his age are still in college. He is still maturing and getting better as the years go on. He was only 19 years old when he entered the league. He isn’t even in his prime yet! Many players that ended up going to the hall of fame did not play at an all star level in their first few years. Last but not least, the term “overrated” was the wrong word. Maybe you could say that he doesn’t deserve a max contract which is debatable, but overrated is not a word I would use to describe him. All the articles I’ve seen about him lately have been articles talking about why he doesn’t deserve the max contract. That isn’t really overrated to me. In fact, he has been a little underrated. People forget that he can be an amazing player on this team. And because the 2015-2016 season was not his best, they forgot about that. So as a Washington Wizards fan, I personally want Bradley Beal back on the team. Him and John Wall have good chemistry and a relationship on and off the court that would be horrible to take away. You want the Wizards to become a playoff team? Start with addressing the real problems. Because even a little kid would know that the main problem on the team is not Bradley Beal.

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  2. Abridged response:

    – “Good at basketball” is relative. He’s obviously insanely good if he’s playing in the NBA, but compared to other NBA players, I don’t exactly see what makes him stand out.

    – Steph Curry is an exception far more than a rule. Most players who start out their career with injury problems continue to have them as they age. It’d be irresponsible to depend on any player’s health fortunes changing as dramatically as Curry’s did.

    – James Harden might be the second best offensive player in basketball. He can get away with being a bad defender. Bradley Beal is not James Harden. And further, guard defense is more important now than it’s ever been. Teams are going smaller and smaller, so defense isn’t just “the center’s job” anymore because more and more teams are just ignoring the center position entirely. Yes, big men protect the rim, but guards have to be able to defend in space, close out on shooters and generate turnovers. John Wall does all of these things extraordinarily well. Beal doesn’t.

    – He’s played in the league for four years. We can now closely approximate what his peak is going to be. While there are certainly examples of players breaking out in their fifth year or later, it’s rare to see one turn into a drastically different player than they were during their rookie contract. Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic are the only examples jumping to mind and their excuses are far more valid than Beal’s.

    – Saying Beal isn’t the problem in Washington is, again, relative. He might not be a net negative basketball player, and there might be spots on the team in which they could improve more drastically than his shooting guard spot. But if they are depending on him to be their second best player, and are going to pay him max money to do so, yea, that is a problem, because he is not that player, and they are paying a major opportunity cost by treating him as one. That money they spend on him could be spent on better players, those shots they give him could go to other Wizards etc…

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  3. Abridged response to your abridged response:

    -You have glasses, you should be able to see what makes him stand out. Compared to the other players on the team: Otto Porter, Nene, Kelly Oubre etc. you don’t think he’s better? You don’t think he stands out when he is on the court totally healthy? He is easily and obviously the second best player on this team and many people will agree to that. Also, he is one of the finalists for the USA olympic team. The team is picked by USA basketball manager Jerry Colangelo, who would not be picking the team if he doesn’t know a lot about basketball. He put Bradley Beal on the list, so obviously it’s not just me who thinks Beal is a good player.

    -Yeah it might be “irresponsible”, but it doesn’t mean you can’t hope that his injury problems will go away. Geez, have some compassion. You are not the one going out on the court every night getting critsized by NBA writers like yourself for having injury problems that you can’t control.

    -Defense is a thing that you can easily get better at. Take Steph Curry for example. Through this year during the 2015-2016 NBA season, I thought he got much better at defense. I am sure that as we speak, Bradley Beal is working out and training to get better at offense and defense..

    -What do you mean by “far more valid than Beals”? Bradley Beal has had serious injuries holding him back. Is that not a valid enough excuse? And also, have you heard about Steph Curry a few years ago? He just got to a big superstar level in a matter of a few years. Although years in the leaugue does matter, age does as well. He is 22 years old for godsake.

    -I’m not even going to argue about this one. There is no one that wouldn’t say that Beal is the second best player on the Wizards.

    Have a good day.

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    1. I think you’ve taken what I said too far. Again, it’s all relative. It’s not that Beal is a bad basketball player, or someone that you wouldn’t want to have in a vacuum. I’m saying that he isn’t nearly as good as he’s perceived to be. He doesn’t deserve a max contract. He has injury issues that aren’t likely to go away, even if guys like Curry prove that it’s possible. I personally wouldn’t sign him to a big contract if I were running a team, and the article above is my reasoning for why. If the Wizards disagree, they’ll give him that contract. It’s not a matter of my compassion, it’s a matter of looking at the objective evidence and coming to what I believe is a reasonable and thought-out conclusion. Feel free to disagree, writers are right sometimes and wrong sometimes. I’m fine with being wrong so long as I approached the problem objectively and used evidence to support my positions.

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