Shoot 3-pointers and layups and free throws while avoiding those dreaded "long 2's." That's the modern plan for NBA offenses these days, especially elite perimeter players. Wizards guard Bradley Beal guard didn't always follow the desired script last season or really in any of his first three seasons. If the opening game of the 2015-16 campaign proves part of a new pattern, Washington's starting wing guard is on board.
No doubt one game epitomize small sample size. Even Friday's game at the Milwaukee Bucks won't help much; we probably need to wait at least 10-15 games for any real sense and even we'd be best to wait a bit more. In terms of the attempts from various locations, Beal's start is promising.
Critics constantly attacked the Wizards' penchant for taking those dreaded "long 2's" last year, otherwise known as shots inside the 3-point arc. Shoot from a few feet back and a basket equals three points instead of two. Simple enough. The thing is Washington didn't have enough of those long ball shooters in the rotation which made the desire for them to shoot more off base at times. However, wanting the sweet-shooting Beal taking more 3's made all the sense.
In 61 games, he attempted a career-low 4.1 shots from beyond the arc. (That works out to 30.4% of his overall attempts). He's never launched more than 4.7 3-pointers during any season. Golden State's Klay Thompson, a wing threat often compared with Beal, tried 7.1 per game last season -- 41 percent of his overall shots -- and 6.1 for his career.
Beal took eight 3-pointers in Wednesday's season opening win at Orlando. That's more than he took in 59 of his 63 regular season games last season. Beal took at least eight 3-pointers in three of 10 playoff games. For now ignore that Beal, a career 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc, missed six of those eight attempts Wednesday. Getting up six or more per game should be the goal.
As for those long 2's, work with me on some crude distance numbers here. Beal took five shots between 16 feet and the 3-point arc against the Magic according to NBA.com or 26.3 percent of his overall attempts.
Of his 851 field goal attempts taken during the 2014-15 regular season, 238 (27.9%) were from 16-24 feet.
Beal's four layup attempts/shots in the restricted area, in terms of percentage of overall attempt, were slightly down compared to last season (21.0 v. 22.7). However, the 6-foot-4 guard made all four attempts and showed intriguing craftiness including a Steve Nash-ian overhead reverse hook. Beal's dribble-drive game hasn't been his strength so showing improvement there certainly counts as encouraging.
So does his seven free throw attempts. Only six times in 63 regular season games last season did he attempt at least seven. Beal has never averaged more than 2.8 attempts in any of his three NBA seasons. However, Beal does his best overall work in the postseason and he attempted 5.9 in two rounds last year.
Now, it's frustrating that a player with his shooting touch is "only" a 78.3 percent shooter from the free throw line (Thompson sinks 85%). He wasn't even that good Wednesday (4 of 7), though we'll chalk some of the misses to first game fatigue in Washington's new pace-and-space offense.
If Beal can keep up the attempts, get the percentage over 80 while staying aggressive shooting from deep, look out. By the way, his 24 points Wednesday were more than he scored in 59 of 63 games last season.
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