Thanks to the NBA expanding the postseason field to 10 teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, the Washington Wizards are somehow still realistically in the running for one of those spots in the East, and they owe a great deal of that to star wing Bradley Beal.
This season, the nine-year pro has continued his recent ascent as a top scorer — averaging over 30 points per game for the second consecutive season — and most of the advanced metrics view him favorably on that end, too (4.0 Estimated Plus/Minus, 5.2 Offensive RAPTOR, 5.7 Offensive Box Plus/Minus).
When you think of Beal on offense, the image of dribbling for a bit before firing off a pull-up jumper — rightfully so considering almost 43 percent of his shots are pull-ups and over 46 percent come after three dribbles, per NBA.com.
This often obfuscates his effectiveness as an off-ball scorer.
Bradley Beal brings the Washington Wizards a lot beyond isolation and pick-and-roll situations
Given that Beal was heralded by many for his shooting skills coming into the league — NBADraft.net noted his “Effortless mechanics with a buttery release and a consistent follow-through” going into the 2012 NBA Draft — it isn’t too surprising to find out that he ranks in the upper half in scoring on off-ball screens (1.12 points per possession, 74th percentile) and spot-ups (1.16 PPP, 79th percentile).
Interestingly enough, some of this success goes hand in hand with his on-ball responsibilities. Take the play embedded below, for example. Here, Alex Len sets a screen for Beal. This looked like it would flow into something else — either a ball screen or Beal simply driving off the catch — but Jrue Holiday, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, blows up that initial action by spinning around the screen. However, Beal recognizes this, and after a Len re-screen, relocates and gets has himself a wide-open look (he missed, but this is good offense).
Later in that same game against the Milwaukee Bucks, he just dekes Holiday to create open space.
He isn’t a terrible cutter either (1.33 PPP, 60th percentile), as evidenced in the clip below. Rui Hachimura is trapped here, and when Giannis Antetokounmpo tries to pounce on what looked like an impending escape hatch pass to Russell Westbrook, Beal wisely darts to the newfound open space and is rewarded with a runway dunk.
While Beal doesn’t take part in these aspects of Washington’s offensive scheme often — relative to his touches in the pick and roll — his deft, heady movements without the ball add some extra wrinkles to his team’s attack.
This shows that Bradley Beal is a diverse offensive threat
As things stand right now, the Wizards are an immensely better offensive team when Beal is on the floor — the team’s offensive rating goes from 103.8 to 113.0 with Beal in the lineup. Yes, a great deal of that boost in effectiveness comes is thanks to Beal’s on-ball scoring (0.97 PPP in the pick and roll on 9.3 possessions per game, 75th percentile), but that diversity as an off-ball option keeps defenses from ignoring him when he’s not the primary offensive catalyst.
This also helps out a supporting cast that struggles to generate positive results without their superstar teammate. Aside from Beal, only one Wizards player has a positive offensive RAPTOR (Davis Bertans), so his pliability on offense helps lessen those players’ responsibilities on that end.
Unfortunately, Beal’s efforts haven’t translated to stellar team offensive results: they rank 21st in offensive rating, and even when you segregate their performance with Beal on the floor, that only moves them to 13th. But again, Beal isn’t exactly playing with all-world teammates around him; if he were, the Wizards wouldn’t be 14-25. It’s truths like this that make one wonder if Beal and his multifaceted scoring profile would be better suited on a contending team.
For now, though, Bradley Beal remains committed to the Washington Wizards, and given how dead on arrival the offense looks without him, they are more than happy to know he provides a lifeline in such a variety of ways.