Bradley Beal is a clear part of the future of the Washington Wizards.
Along with John Wall, Beal's development as a scorer, shooter and overall teammate are going to be key for this team if it wants to compete for an NBA championship in the near future.
Beal is slated to garner a max deal when he becomes a free agent in 2016. The Wizards have made it clear they are reportedly willing to do whatever it takes to retain his services and keep him part of the team's backcourt. He's a very promising player and has loads of potential at a very weak position in the league.
Cornerstones to build around like Beal and Wall are always good, but the way Beal has played through six games this season does not necessarily prove he deserves a max deal. The sample size is small, sure, but we have seen these problems before for Beal.
Beal is posting career lows in PER and offensive efficiency so far through the season. Although he is shooting 44% from the floor, his true shooting percentage is just 52%. Beal only gets to the line 2.2 times per game and is taking just 5.5 three point shots per 100 possessions.
These are not good signs for a player who will almost certainly get a max deal. Beal's numbers and his play so far this season suggests that he's a middle of the pack shooting guard - at best.
Beal will surely get a max deal because of the skill set he brings to the basketball court as an elite three point shooter and a secondary ball handler- something many teams in the league are starving for. Though he may not take as many threes as he should with the Wizards, Beal has consistently been a greater than 40% shooter from deep. His form has always been pretty and he's developed skill in the pick and roll game.
There is an enormous difference between where Beal is right now and where Beal should be. His playing style suggests that he's a sub-par shot chucker who hijacks the offense when he see's fit, but it is important to keep in mind that this is a team coached to take the first open shot it finds.
Take a look at this play from the Pelicans game.
After a handoff from Gortat, Beal shoots the ball with 11 seconds left on the shot clock - though there are a couple of better plays available. Let's freeze the shot and take a look.
There are four Pelicans players with a foot in the paint. They all have their eyes on the ball and no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to the weakside.
The better, and frankly easier, play for Beal would be to swing the ball to Paul Pierce as he turns the corner. Pierce can then make the play to swing the ball to John Wall as the defense closes out or take the three.
He can even swing the ball to John Wall with a skip pass to the corner for a three pointer or an easy penetration attempt.
The same thing applies to Beal here on a midrange jump shot with about 10 seconds left on the clock early on in the game.
This is certainly an open look for Beal and the first shot open shot the Wizards got from the action, but it is a difficult midrange jumper on the move. That is still a difficult shot to hit, no matter how open a player is.
Beal can easily hit a rolling Marcin Gortat, who had the hot hand all game, going down the lane or he can even kick the ball to Paul Pierce on the wing once again.
Those are both better plays than even the uncontested look Beal took. He is not the best midrange jump shooter in the league this season and the quality of his shot is extremely low. Beal shoots 36% from the midrange, which is just below league average. But a whopping 32% of Beal's field goals come from that area of the floor, which does not make for good offense.
The same thing can be said here for a play that could have lost Washington the game against New Orleans. Beal pulls up for a midrange jump shot right in the face of Anthony Davis.
Beal has a rolling Gortat available going down the lane as Davis becomes occupied with the ball and Beal's defender is trailing the play. He also has Wall wide open on the wing as Jrue Holiday creeps over to stop penetration.
Wall has a wide open penetration lane directly down to the rim. Beal had dribbled the clock to a low point, but Wall's elite speed would have been able to get him a look at the rim and he probably could have drawn a foul on the play as well.
Beal goes ahead and takes the lowest value shot possible here - which will continue to reduce his effect on the offensive end. As long as he keeps making these plays, he will never realize his actual potential.
Beal, at just 21 years old, is still one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA with so much room to grow and learn about the game. He's improved every year - and it is important to remember his sample size from this year is small.
Beal will learn to make the aforementioned plays and he will become a much better player when he does it. Until then, hoops fans will just have to be patient and hope his development speeds up to match the max deal he'll eventually garner in the free agency market.