Before we dive into Bradley Beal's quotes from Wednesday's game, let's preface it by reminding ourselves where Bradley Beal is in his life.
It's easy to forget Bradley Beal is only 21-years-old. Someone aged 21 doesn't understand everything there is to know about life just yet. They have a sense of who they are, but they don't have a full sense of who they will be. At 21, the gap between the person you think you are and the person you think you want to be creates a certain level of tension and uncertainty that can be difficult to navigate — even if you're just a college student trying to figure out what you're going to do with your life after you get your degree, much less a NBA superstar on the precipice of a contract extension that could set him up for life.
Now, that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about what Bradley Beal said, because it's pretty clear he doesn't quite understand yet what kind of a player he could be. After his 20 point, 5 assist, 5 rebound performance, he was asked about his offensive approach. Here's what he had to say, via Truth About It:
"I know teams aren't going to let me get an open 3, and I'm not going to come off a screen and shoot a 3. My shot's not ... I'm not Steph Curry coming off a 3 like that," said Beal in a moment of honesty when asked if he thought that he should shoot more 3-pointers before continuing on with his mantra: "I just take what the defense gives me and get the shot that I want."
Bradley Beal on if he should take more 3s & if he can shoot 3s off screens like Steph Curry: http://t.co/0sdX7o3Ul3 pic.twitter.com/O4izD3Pbdd— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) April 2, 2015
Oh boy. If the "take what the defense gives you" line sounds familiar, well, it is. Here's what Randy Wittman said back in January about why the Wizards don't take many threes:
"You take what your defense gives you is what you kind of say and when there are opportunities we look to take them," Wittman said. "We shoot a high percentage but we don't have a lot of guys who shoot them ... if that makes any sense to you.
Wittman is the only NBA coach Bradley Beal has ever played for, so it's understandable why he would start parroting his "take what the defense gives you" mantra, even though it's somewhat flawed. Certainly, teams do their best to limit elite shooters like Beal, who is shooting 41.4 percent on 3.3 catch-and-shoot three point attempts per game this season. But elite offenses should fight right back to create more opportunities and still maintain high efficiency. Kyle Korver, Eric Gordon, Klay Thompson, J.J. Redick and Danny Green all shoot at least 4.5 catch-and-shoot threes per game and they're all shooting over 44 percent in those situations.
But even if you wanted to play devil's advocate here and argue the Wizards can't generate more catch-and-shoot opportunities with their offensive scheme and roster set-up, then it makes this part of what Beal said even more troubling:
My shot's not ... I'm not Steph Curry coming off a 3 like that
And yeah, no one is quite like Stephen Curry firing away off of a screen, but that doesn't mean the Wizards should stop trying to get something out of that part of his game. Using screens is the most effective way to create a good look from beyond the arc on your own terms. Yes, it's an incredibly difficult shot to master, but that's what you have to do in the NBA if you want to make the most of someone's shooting abilities. Unfortunately, Beal's comments and shot selection this season seem to indicate the Wizards are content with Beal just getting the shots others create for him in the offense, and don't see the need to force the issue.
Again, Bradley Beal is 21 years old. This is the time to stretch Bradley Beal out and develop him in areas where he isn't comfortable. When the Wizards drafted him in 2012, here's what Ernie Grunfeld had to say about what he liked about Beal's game:
"He can stretch the defense, is a very good three-point shooter and he knows how to play the game."
Right now, with the way they're developing Beal they're not maximizing those benefits. What's the point of having a shooter to space the floor if he's feels most comfortable taking shots like this, and no one is trying to guide him toward shots that are more effective?
Taking what the defense gives you is a good mantra for role players to embrace, because it's the path to delivery high efficiency in a low usage role. The Wizards should have higher aspirations for the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. Otherwise, they're allowing the other team — as well the player's own comfort level — dictate the terms of engagement for what should be the team's second-best offensive weapon.