Throughout Beal's tenure as a Wizard, there have consistently been complaints about the way he plays and his availability among fans. He's missed way too many games that have proven to be costly for his team, his efficiency numbers haven't improved in three seasons and he's lately shown a lack of aggression when it comes to getting to even taking shots.
Beal uses 22.1 percent of the Wizards' offensive possessions when he's on the floor, per basketball reference. That is the third highest usage rate behind John Wall and Ramon Sessions, who dominates the ball once the second unit comes on the floor. Beal's efficiency is important for the team--especially since it is often him who is the featured scorer on the second unit. How he uses those possessions is essential.
The fact of the matter is that Beal has not been satisfactory in many areas. He has not improved his shooting efficiency in three years, he is posting a career low PER at 13.5 and he continues to pass up golden opportunities to get to the rim for midrange jump shots, which is typically the first open look he sees. He has a lot of growing to do as an offensive player, and that is definitely fair to say.
A majority of the problem with Beal is his shot selection. Beal is a 41 percent shooter from behind the arch and 57 percent within the restricted area. Yet, with that being the case, a majority of Beal's shots are coming from the middle of the floor where he's been traditionally putrid.
As you can see, there is a sea of blood in the middle of the floor once you cross the three point line. In this case, the grass is truly greener on the other side. And then, there's a tidy patch of yellow on an untouched surface in the middle of the ocean, yearning for some type of fertilization.
Beal knows how dominant he is beyond the arch and how essential that shot is in today's game, but yet he continues to swim in the impassible tides of the midrange sea, seeing the patch of yellow desperately in need of care, but too tepid to continue to swim to the lone island of grass known as the promised land of the rim.
A whopping 35.5 percent of Beal's shots are coming from midrange. This is not ideal in any way. A lot of this comes from the coaching point Randy Wittman continues to harp on of "taking the first open look you see" instead of the best one, but some of this is on Beal as well. He knows he is missing these shots in bulk, yet, he continues to take them at the same rate.
This point is so eloquently surmised by Michael Lee in the Washington Post. Beal has to bear some responsibility in this as well, because Wittman is not on the floor taking these shots himself.
Unfortunately, Beal has been a great three-point shooter who too often settles for long midrange jumpers and an even better free throw shooter who rarely attacks the rim to get to the line. Wittman’s inability to devise a scheme that maximizes those strengths has been a hindrance, but Beal also shoulders blame, held back by being too willing to defer and blend. That will have to change for the Wizards to take the next step.
At some point, the ball drops with Beal turning himself into the player that the Wizards' believe he can be. He believes in it, the Wizards believe in it, and so should the fans. Because, really, every problem he has showcased thus far is fixable.
Again, a majority of what Beal is going through is the result of shot selection and coaching. With all it takes is an emphasis on the right shots at the right times to change Beal's game around. That is not a given at this point, but it is still definitely in the realm of possibility.
Klay Thompson shared similar struggles during his first three years in Golden State. Mark Jackson was a coach who consistently put Thompson in isolation situations where he'd attack a smaller guard in the post or have to beat someone off the dribble. Steve Kerr realized that was not his game and installed an offensive system that emphasized his strengths, and now he's an All-Star.
Thompson and Beal are in very similar situations. Beal is consistently asked to be a shot creator in the mold of a Manu Ginobili or a James Harden. At this point, he is simply not that. He has not consistently shown the comfort level to get all the way to the rim and does not have elite passing ability. His shot selection is far below average and he still has to improve his patience offensively.
But there is still time. Let's take a look at Thompson side-by-side with Beal through their first three years.
The results have been eerily similar in a multitude of ways. But, yet, there are still complaints about how far Beal has come as a player. He's the team's best three point shooter, has improved his ball handling ability throughout his tenure as a Wizard, is a very good rebounder and has built a solid foundation to improve upon.
And he's still only 21 years old. Thompson signed his mega, but not necessarily maximum, deal and his front office believed in him and Thompson was 24 years old when he signed on to his extension. He showed flashes of what he could be, just as Beal has done in Washington, but never really consistently put things together. Their numbers reflect this. Their PERs are almost identical, their offensive and defensive ratings are practically the same and they both shared the inability to get to the foul line.
Like Beal, Thompson took most of his shots from midrange in his third season and throughout the first three years of his career. Just over 36 percent of his shots came from that area just a year ago. He was a league average shooter from that spot, but it still was not the most productive plan.
But the Warriors did not waver. They refused to trade him for a superstar in Kevin Love over the summer. That is because they recognized his elite shooting skill and his ability to play with Stephen Curry and signed him on for the long term.
That should sound like a familiar situation to Wizards fans. Wall and Beal have been a devastating combo, somewhat held back by the offensive system they play in. A few minor changes can make all the difference in the world and turn Beal into the second superstar Washington so desperately needs.
Beal really given the Wizards a reason not to believe in him? He'll get a mega deal, maybe in the mold of Thompson's, and he should. He has an elite skill and will continue to grow as a 21 year old combo guard.
Aside from an extremely shaky injury history, Beal has not done anything but improve his skill as a basketball player. He's still putting it all together, but we should remain confident he'll be a finished product with a few tweaks here and there.
Then, hopefully that sea of red will be overshadowed by green in other areas.