When Bradley Beal entered the NBA, he was known for one thing and one thing only: shooting. He had a stroke so smooth that many thought his career would mimic that of another sharpshooter, Ray Allen. And although he’s been scorching the nets early on this season, it’s not just because of his shooting from distance.
Beal is currently averaging 25.4 points per game on this young season and is doing it while shooting just 36.4 percent from three-point range, the worst percentage of his career.
Last week, Beal averaged 38 points per game in the three games against Phoenix, Cleveland, and Toronto. Yes, his three-point shooting was much improved over that stretch (47 percent), but he did a lot of his damage off-the-dribble and driving to the hole, much like he has all season.
The biggest gap in Beal’s game over the past few seasons has been his inability to create his own shot. He made major strides last season to address this weakness and in his sixth NBA season, it looks like he’s developed it into a major strength.
Again, the sample size is super small, but Beal is converting on a mind-boggling 76 percent of all shots five feet or closer to the basket. Although that shooting percentage is unsustainable, that’s currently best amongst all guards attempting at least four shots or more per game from five feet or within.
Last year, Beal had trouble finishing through contact. This year, that’s changed. He has finally figured out how to use his strength to his advantage in the paint, which has drastically improved his ability to finish around the rim. Watch how he finishes through contact as Serge Ibaka contests him at the rim:
Bradley Beal is so good at finishing through contact now pic.twitter.com/vkNM8QOoOy— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) November 9, 2017
Early in his career, he often hung around the three-point line as he was more of a catch-and-shoot player. If his shot wasn’t there, he’d simply pass the ball away as he wasn’t capable of producing a good look at the basket. Now, he’s able to identify mismatches and rather settling for a jump shot, attacks the hole.
His usage percentage is the highest it’s ever been of his young NBA career and the most telling stat of his improvements is that 60 percent of his two-point field goals are unassisted on compared to just 35.6 percent when he came into the league, yet, he’s still shooting better on those shots than ever before. When he doesn’t have a clear lane to the rim, he can get off his wicked step-back jumper against anyone.
Bradley Beal with the pretty stepback. pic.twitter.com/CILaR3xhcM— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) November 6, 2017
Beal has consistently added new elements to his game and the team’s patience with him, even through injury, is paying off immensely. Barring a major shift, he will have the best scoring average on the team this season. It will be the first time since John Wall’s rookie season where he won’t have to carry the burden of being the team’s top passer and scorer.
The result? All signs are pointing to Beal punching his ticket for his first All-Star appearance this February in Los Angeles.