Washington Wizards 2017 Season Review: Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards fans can thank Bradley Beal in large part for the team’s improved season. Not only did he play the most games in his NBA career, he also improved his play by leaps and bounds in his 5th season. The 2017 season review for our favorite panda, Bradley Beal.

Regular Season Stats: 77 Games, 23.1 PPG (48.2 FG%, 40.4 3P%), 3.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 34.9 MPG

Playoff Stats: 13 Games, 24.8 PPG (47.1 FG%, 28.7 3P%), 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.6 SPG 38.8 MPG

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be posting individual player reviews for the guys that ended the season in a Washington Wizards uniform. So far we’ve reviewed:

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Jason Smith

Tomas Satoransky

Trey Burke

Brandon Jennings

Bojan Bogdanovic

Ian Mahinmi

Markieff Morris

What a season for Bradley Beal and the Wizards. After four promising but frustrating seasons in the NBA, Beal finally showcased the star potential that led to Washington drafting him third in the 2012 NBA Draft.

In the 2016-17 regular season, Beal hit career highs in the following categories: Points per game, field goal makes and attempts per game, field goal percentage, three point makes and attempts per game, effective field goal percentage, free throw makes and attempts per game, free throw percentage, and assists per game.

His 23.1 points per game tied John Wall for first on the team, and his aggressiveness on offense had a direct effect on the potent Wizards offense. For a few seasons now, Beal took a backseat to Wall, being overly passive on offense. With the arrival of head coach Scott Brooks, Beal took on more of the 1b role he envisioned before the season.

Beal mentioned in training camp that he had the best offseason of his career, and it showed. He changed his diet to decrease the possibility of developing leg injuries, and improving his conditioning. Beal’s training regimen focused on improving his ball handling and creating abilities, so he could become more than just a “shooter”.

Beal becoming more of a creator on offense allowed the Wizards offense to reach new heights. Trapping Wall was less effective, as there was another dynamic guard on the court.

Looking at advanced statistics, Beal’s Offensive Box Plus Minus (OBPM) of 4.5 was by far the highest of his career, up from his previous high of 1.0 the year before. The OBPM is an estimate of the offensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player.

During the regular season, Beal was one of only 12 guards to have a OBPM of at least 4.5. The others ranked by win shares were:

That’s a pretty damn good list. Excluding Beal, Lillard and Conley were the only two players to not make the All-Star Game. Of those 12 players, Beal’s the youngest player (turned 24 on June 28th), and the only player under 26. Assuming he continues to improve, the sky’s the limit for Beal. He can still get to the free throw line more, and get his three-point percentage closer to 45%.

The 23.1 points per game average almost doesn’t do Beal justice. He struggled to start the season, had a couple minor injuries, and because of the firepower across the starting lineup he had games where he simply wasn’t needed to score. But he still managed to put up some huge games.

In the regular season, Beal had 13 games over 30 points, including three sets of back to back games, and four games with at least 40 points. Going into the season, Beal had a total of 5 games of 30 points in his career. In November 2016, he scored a career high 42 in a win over Phoenix.

He also scored 41 points in possibly the game of the year in February against Cleveland. He got roasted on defense by Kyrie Irving in that overtime, but Beal hit big shot after big shot on offense to keep Washington close, and gain the lead, before ultimately losing.

Despite not being able to stop Kyrie to end that game, Beal had a successful season defensively. While Wall got much of the defensive recognition for his ability to get steals and blocks, Beal did a great (and possibly better) job staying in front of his man. Playing solid on-ball defense forced some of the poor passes that Wall could take advantage of to lead the Wizards’ fastbreak.

Back to his offensive repertoire, Beal showed he’s more than a shooter. He had big dunks this year. He also had 20 games during the regular season with at least 5 assists. Considering he had the lowest usage rate among players to average at least 23 points per game, it will be exciting to see how Beal improves as the offense is run more and more through his hands. Brooks tried staggering the lineups for Wall and Beal, and Beal should continue to get plenty of run while Wall is resting.

Looking at his play in the playoffs, Beal had an up and down performance in the playoffs. He improved his scoring average from the regular season, but had a few clunkers that really hurt the Wizards chances.

In the playoffs, he shot only 28.7% from three, making only 29 of 101 attempts. Defense in the playoffs picks up, and it was clear that the pressure Atlanta and Boston placed on him hurt his offensive output. He was able to still score almost 25 points per game, but the inefficiency, paired with the failings of the bench, spelled doom for Washington.

Despite his otherwordly efforts, part of me will always remember Game 2 against the Celtics in Boston, where the Wizards lost in overtime, despite allowing Isaiah Thomas score 52 points, and only getting 14 points from Beal in 47 minutes.

In that game, he had two more turnovers (6) than made baskets (4), and actually played like someone who was dealing with a concussion. No news ever came of an injury, so we can only speculate what happened to Beal in that game. The only thing we’re left with is the free-throw line airball at the end of the 4th quarter that would have won the game.

Promising for Wizards fans though is the fact that three of Beal’s best games in the playoffs were in closeout games. He had 31 points in Game 6 against Atlanta in the first round, 33 points in the exhilarating Game 6 win against Boston at home, and 38 in the Game 7 loss to the Celtics in the conference semifinals three days later.

Having your best players play their best in closeout games is a defining quality of a championship team, and winning that championship is of course the ultimate goal for every professional athlete. In his 5th season, Beal proved the doubters wrong, showing he earned the $125 million contract he signed last offseason.

The Ray Allen comparisons were extremely close after last season, and after Beal’s best season, they’re even more in sync. Washington has two lead guards to build around, something every team in the league sets its eyes on.

Bill Simmons likes to judge players by how and when they hit certain “checkpoints”, and it’s safe to say Beal hit many of his this season. He led his team in scoring, helped lead his team to the most wins for the franchise in 38 years, earned a max contract, and began to get national media recognition.

The NBA Awards were on Monday night, and the full voting results were released on Tuesday. Beal came 7th in voting for Most Improved Player. He even got 1 first place vote from J. Michael of CSN. While being healthy was a huge part of his improvement, his game took to new heights, and he deserved more consideration from voters. Heck, he also deserved to be an All-Star this year.

Grade: A-

Assuming the starting lineup returns, Beal will be primed for another strong season. He’s got the extra motivation from the disappointment that came in Washington’s last game to fuel him. Let’s see what a 24 year-old Bradley Beal can do.