How Washington Wizards' Bradley Beal Can Take Great Leap Forward Next Season
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Although he finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting, there are still a number of holes in his game, including his mid-range jumper, play at the rim and defensive performance.
Now Beal is surrounded by good, young talent on the Wizards, including John Wall at point guard and Otto Porter at small forward, along with the veteran big men Nenê and Emeka Okafor. This gives the 20-year-old the perfect opportunity to step up his game, as Washington is in the best position in a long time to make the playoffs.
The Wizards were a good defensive team last season, finishing eighth in the league in scoring defense. However, if Washington is serious about making a run for the playoffs, its offense needs to take a step forward. This is even more important for Beal, whose shooting in his rookie year was worse than his one year in college with the Florida Gators.
This was most evident with his mid-range two-point shooting. Although he shot 38.6 percent from three, he only shot 28 percent between 10 and 15 feet, according to Hoopdata.
Beal just seemed to have poor shot selection, settling for shots that were farther away from the basket than they should have been.
According to NBA.com, Beal only shot 30.3 percent from the top of the key, which was below the league average for last season. Beal should work on getting closer to the basket and taking the open shot rather than trying to force something.
He is a shooting guard, so his job is to, well, shoot. But he needs to select better shots and know when to dump the ball off rather than trying to force it under pressure from 15 feet.
When Beal wasn't taking mid-range jumpers, he was struggling on either side of the basket close to the hoop. If he was directly in front of the basket, he was fine, shooting 52 percent from there, which is about the league average.
But on the sides of the rim, he shot below the league average at 23 percent from the left side and 30 percent from the right. During this offseason, Beal should focus on improving those numbers, given Washington's main big man, Okafor, is far more of a defensive threat than he is an offensive threat.
If Beal decides that shooting under the hoop isn't his strong suit, he needs to pass the ball back out or get it to someone like Okafor or Nenê who can follow up. That's far more effective than taking 17 shots from the left side under the hoop and only making four of them.
What Beal lacked in low-post scoring, he certainly made up for it behind the arc, shooting 38.6 percent from three on the season, which is above his average in college.
On the defensive side of the ball, Beal has some improvements he needs to make from his rookie campaign.
This especially applies to his rebounding. Beal only pulled down about three-and-a-half rebounds per game, down from the 6.7 per game he averaged with the Gators in college.
That rebounding average put him outside the top 100 players in the NBA. By no means was Beal a terrible defensive player, but he did take his lumps early on in the season as the Wizards struggled to slow down teams early in the season.
Beal needs to find other ways to slow down opposing players on offense, since he's not going to do it with his size. At only 6'5," Beal's not going to be an overwhelming defensive force, but he still needs to be more involved on defense and help pull in rebounds to get the ball back into Wall's hands.
Overall, Beal did exactly what he was supposed to do as the No. 3 overall draft pick in last year's NBA draft. He made the All-Rookie team and averaged just about 14 points per game, but there are still some improvements that need to be made if Beal is to become an elite player and help Washington make the postseason.
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