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.
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.
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.