How Washington Wizards Guard Bradley Beal Can Take The Next Step

WASHINGTON, DC -  NOVEMBER 7: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets on November 7, 2016 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -  NOVEMBER 7: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets on November 7, 2016 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, fresh off a career season, proved his worth and lived up to the 5 year, $128 million dollar contract he signed last offseason. Already one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, Beal still has room for improvement. How can he elevate his game?

Coming out of college, Beal had lofty expectations attached to his name. Many compared him to Ray Allen, arguably the greatest shooter of all time and a surefire HOF. While this comparison may have been unfair, Beal certainly demonstrated the talent and ability to eventually reach that level. 

However, through the first few seasons of his career, Beal struggled to develop. It’s hard to say how much injuries hampered his development, but he certainly missed a lot of valuable time on the court. Beal boasts career averages of 17.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 3.1 APG on shooting slashes of 44.1% FG, 39.9% 3PT, 79.6% FT. While these numbers are solid, they don’t scream Jesus Shuttleworth. 

More from Wiz of Awes

But last season, Beal looked like the player everyone expected him to be coming out of college. He took his game to new heights, averaging 23.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 3.5 APG on 48.2% FG, 40.4% 3PT, 82.5% FT. He posted career highs in points, assists, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage. Most importantly though, he missed just four games due to injury. Beal finally became the second star the Wizards needed, the robin to John Wall‘s batman. 

Despite this, there are still weaknesses in Beal’s game that prevent him from reaching his full potential. How can Beal take the next step? 

First, Beal could stand to improve his rebounding. While rebounding as a guard isn’t crucial, more and more guards are beginning to crash the glass. Players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden collect rebounds like big men, which opens up offensive opportunities and ignites fast breaks. At 6’5, 207 pounds, Beal has the size and athleticism to average more than the 3.1 RPG he did last year. If Beal could average around 4-5 rebounds per game, like DeMar DeRozan, it would help his game become more well-rounded. 

Beal also needs to improve as a playmaker. After John Wall, the Wizards have long lacked another player effective in initiating the offense. While Beal has the ability to create for others, he’s failed to do so consistently. Playing alongside Wall, Beal will never be tasked with being the primary ball-handler. But becoming more proficient as a playmaker would take some pressure off Wall and apply more pressure on the defense. Last year, Beal posted a career high 3.5 APG. Continued growth as a passer will elevate Beal as an overall player. 

The biggest thing holding Beal back from reaching new heights is defense. While Beal has shown the ability to defend well throughout his career, he’s failed to be anything more than average on the defensive end. Scott Brooks has said that Beal has the potential to be one of the best “two-way” players in the league, but we’ve yet to see it.

More from Wiz of Awes

It’s not so much a lack of ability, but more so a lack of effort. Beal is big enough to guard wings and quick to enough to defend smaller guards, it’s just a matter of applying himself on defense. If he can utilize his athleticism and length to bother opposing players, Beal can quickly become a plus on defense.

It may be necessary that he does so. More and more teams are investing in athletic, big wings who can play multiple positions. Many teams are exploring lineups with multiple wings as opposed to two traditional guards. For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves will either be starting Andrew Wiggins or Jimmy Butler at the two.

In Boston, Gordon Hayward will see a lot of playing time in the backcourt.  Because Beal is strictly a shooting guard, he’ll have to become adequate in defending bigger players. 

There’s no saying just how good Bradley Beal can become. At just 24 years old, he’s already one of the more talented scorers in the NBA. He’s shown out on the biggest of stages, most recently scoring 38 points against the Celtics in game 7. But his career trajectory will be determined by his development in the areas mentioned – rebounding, playmaking, and defending. 

Next: Caron Butler Biopic in Search of Director

If Beal can improve in these facets, he can quickly challenge for the title of best pure shooting guard in the NBA.