Bradley Beal hasn’t played like a max player through the first three games of his five year, $128 million deal. It would be one thing if Beal was playing like he did last season and just wasn’t taking a step forward this season, but that’s not the case. Beal hasn’t been stagnant this season, he’s taken a step back.
Beal is averaging 14.0 points, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 rebounds in 34.0 minutes per game through the first three games of the season. What’s worse is he’s shooting 38.1 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from beyond the arc, and just 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
So what’s going on here? Is Beal regressing or is he just in a funk? Well, it’s complicated. Let’s take a look at a few of the early trends that have emerged.
1. Beal is actually doing really well around the rim
You weren’t expecting this, were you? Beal is 9-15 on shots inside the paint. He’s getting to the lane more often and shooting better in that range than he has at any other point in his career. Those numbers will probably come back to earth a bit as the season progresses, but it seems to back up the eye test that Beal is doing a better job of getting into the lane than he has in previous years.
You’d think getting better at driving the lane would make it easier to get his shot off, because defenders have to lay back a little bit more to respect his ability to drive. The thing is, that hasn’t happened. At all.
2. Wall and Beal have not connected on a corner three so far this season
John Wall is one of the best players in the league at generating three point attempts from the corners, which is generally the most efficient place to get three pointers. But so far, Wall hasn’t even set up Beal with an attempt from the corner, much less get one to go down. Beal is too talented to keep him parked in the corner all game waiting for a catch-and-shoot opportunity, but the Wizards still have to do a better job of finding ways to get him involved down there.
They also need to do a better job of just getting Beal involved shooting beyond the arc in general. He’s attempting almost a full attempt less per 100 possession than he did last season.
3. The least efficient part of Bradley Beal’s game is his jumper
Beal is 8-31 (25.8 percent) on jump shots, according to NBA.com. The shot chart on Beal’s jumpers illustrate just how bad things are at the moment:
4. Beal is struggling mostly with open shots
Beal is shooting 30.7 percent on shots where the nearest defender is at least four feet away. Last season, he was knocking those shots down 44 percent of the time. That should correct itself with time.
5. Beal has struggled with jumpers, but not catch-and-shoot opportunities
Beal is 4-12 on catch-and-shoot opportunities, which sounds bad at first until you realize 10 of those shots are from beyond the arc. His effective field goal percentage (which weighs in the added value of three pointers) is 50 percent, which is slightly below average, but nothing worth panicking over at this point in the season.
The real issue are Beal’s pull up jumpers. Last season, Beal’s eFG% on pull ups was 42.9 percent. So far this season, he’s 3-15 on those shots. If he was shooting last season’s percentages on those shots most of his averages would go back to being close to what they were last season.
In an ideal world, you’d like to see Beal eschew some of those pull ups for more efficient shots elsewhere, because pull up jumpers have never really been his strength. But in the meantime, just getting him back to the point where he can make those shots with a little more regularity should help get him back on the right foot.