After a slow start to his rookie campaign, Bradley Beal is starting to flourish in his first year in the Association. Much like the Washington Wizards as a team, the former Florida Gator struggled to find his comfort zone early in the season.
Three things stood out in his first quarter of the season: his highly regarded shot wasn't falling, he was shying away from contact at the rim and opponents were taking advantage of his rather lanky 6'3" frame. However, Beal has found his groove since his early season struggles.
Initially, the Washington Wizards were looking a bit foolish for taking Beal with the third overall pick in last summer's draft. After all, other guards Dion Waiters and Damian Lillard were thriving in starting roles with their respective teams, the Portland Trail Blazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The tides have turned, though.
In the month of January, Beal is averaging nearly 18 points, four boards, three assists and two steals per night. Compare that to his season average of 13 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal per game, and it is easy to see how much Beal has improved in just his short tenure as a professional.
As of late, reports have surfaced that the Washington Wizards are hoping to acquire Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay by shipping out a package surrounding Beal. Many suggest this is a lousy attempt by the Grizzlies to increase Gay's value around the league, but the fact of the matter is Beal has a chance to be a true star in the NBA.
While he may never become as talented or valuable as Gay, Beal's youth and potential are just too hard to just ship off. Plus, Gay, who is 26 years old, won't help a rebuilding process centered around John Wall.
Ability to Score in a Multitude of Ways
So far, three comparisons have stood out to me when discussing Bradley Beal. Many have labeled the 19-year-old's play style like Dwyane Wade, Richard Hamilton or Ray Allen's game. However, I believe it is a combination of the three.
First of all, Beal's work ethic and ability to knock down shots both on and off the dribble are very similar to that of Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton's tendencies. Both former Connecticut stars can run around the court all day long, which has become one of Beal's greatest weapons.
Much like Dwyane Wade, however, Beal is an undersized shooting guard with a knack for grabbing boards, despite his small stature, and penetrating the hole with effectiveness.
While Beal will probably never live up to the legacies of these three NBA greats, there is no denying that he has All-Star-caliber play written all over him.
Complement to John Wall
One of the biggest issues Beal has faced this season is the lack of a true facilitator on the roster. With John Wall finally returning from a knee injury, the Wizards won't have call on a multitude of different point guards to make up for the lost production.
With Wall now in the mix, expect Beal's scoring and, especially, efficiency to vastly improve.
A talent like Wall commands the defense's attention, causing spot-up shooters like Beal more open jumpers. This simply was not occurring when a combination of Shaun Livingston, A.J. Price, Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo were dishing out the rock.
Beal is only shooting 37 percent from the field and 32 percent from downtown. Don't be surprised to see the rookie start knocking down more shots with a new mate at point guard.
Only a Teenager
While this doesn't apply to Austin Rivers, as he is also incredibly young, many of the guards selected after Beal are significantly older. Damian Lillard, who spent all four years at the collegiate level and is currently 22 years old, and Dion Waiters, who spent two years at Syracuse and is 21 years old, have more basketball experience than Beal.
Think about this important fact in a different light.
When Beal, who is still a teenager at a spry 19 years old, is three years into the league, he will be the same age as Lillard. Now, don't you think Beal will be quite better with that added experience? He will probably surpass the level the Trail Blazers' point guard is playing at right now.
Additionally, Beal has the mentality of someone way past his age. With a great work ethic and not being afraid to heave the last shot, Beal's attitude towards the game is something that will greatly help him going forward.
The Washington Wizards have found their two franchise cornerstones in Beal and Wall. Both possess immense potential, but don't be shocked to see Beal selected as an All-Star before his fellow guard.
Star shooting guards are becoming somewhat of a rare breed in the NBA, and Beal has all the tools to become just that.