It's September, the month on the NBA calendar when everyone in the league says they're adding something new to their game to get fans excited. Most players are talking about how they lost weight, added muscle, or worked all summer their outside shot. None of these things have ever been a problem for Bradley Beal, who has a rare combination of strength and outside touch, but he may have found a way to drum up the most excitement of anyone with what he's been working on this summer.
Bleacher Report's Josh Martin has been following Bradley Beal this summer as he trains with Drew Hanlen and prepares for the most important season of his career as he tries to show he deserves a max deal. In the piece, Beal drops the most encouraging quote of the season:
In Beal's case, Hanlen zeroed in on three weak spots for his first client to strengthen this summer: finishing at the rim, drawing fouls and sharpening his shot selection. The two of them agreed to focus on those areas, without input from the Wizards.
"I have to do as much as I can as best as I can to eliminate those long twos and get to the basket, get to the free-throw line," Beal said. "Those are just easy points."
For anyone who has watched Beal since he entered the NBA, this is music to your ears. To be specific, it probably sounds something like this:
To put it bluntly, Bradley Beal's midrange shooting has been the one thing that's kept him from getting the most of his potential. He takes a lot of shots from that range, and he was among the worst shooters in the NBA who consistently shot from that already inefficient range last season. Throughout his career, Beal has taken far too many shots that look like this:
Beal could have easily turned the corner and attacked Elton Brand to get a layup or draw a foul or taken a step back to shoot a three in the corner, but instead settled for the quick, open shot even though he had to shoot it off-the-dribble from an inefficient spot on the floor.
So it's nice to see Beal understand taking long twos is bad for his game and making adjustments to take more efficient shots, but there are some things the Wizards need to adjust as well. First, the offense needs to generate some more creative ways to get him the ball where he can attack the defense rather than probe for an open look. Beal got set up in a lot of high pick and rolls that led to situations like this:
Beal is forced into this shot off the pick and roll because Gortat can't hurt teams from beyond the arc, John Wall is on the opposite side of the court, DeMar DeRozan can contest any pass to Paul Pierce in the corner, and Nene is in a perfect position to allow Jonas Valanciunas to prevent penetration to the rim. If John Wall is running this, he could whip that pass across the court to the opposite corner or wait for the right moment to slip the ball to Gortat. Beal isn't that type of player and the Wizards should adjust how he attacks the defense accordingly.
But part of the solution also falls on the players, specifically John Wall. Having more big men to stretch the floor should help Beal this season, like it did in the playoffs, but he also needs Wall to be a more dependable outside shooter if he wants Beal to shoulder more of the playmaking load this season. Otherwise, you'll see a lot of this:
If Wall can't make teams pay when they collapse on Beal, he's never going to get into the paint, which will force him into more bad jumpers next season.
Identifying flaws in one's game is a key part of development, so it's good to see Beal is on-point with where he struggles most. But at the same time, it still takes a village to raise a child, or develop a star, and the Wizards need to be on-point with how they help him make the most of what he has learned.