The start of the season hasn't been exactly what Bradley Beal was anticipating, coming off a summer in which the Wizards made him a $128 million max player. His team is 0-3 going into tonight vs. the Atlanta Hawks (CSN, 6:30 p.m. ET).
Beal is shooting 38.1% from the field, 28.6% from three for 14 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 rebounds. He's only getting up 14 shots per game which has to be about six fewer than he should take as the best shooter on the team.
"My job is to try to get him as many easy shots as possible," point guard John Wall said, looking back at Wednesday's 113-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors and ahead to their next home game. "A couple times he turned down some shots to make extra passes. I’m used to him taking those kind of shots. I told him to be aggressive. Most of the time me and him are probably going to take 20 shots a game. For us both to be successful, we both have to be aggressive. Also when teams are double teaming us or trying to collapse on us we have to make the right reads and right plays. I think he’s been able to do that. He’s missing a couple of easy shots that he’s used to making. What kind of helps with that is getting to the free throw line and getting easy baskets."
Beal is only taking three free throws per game. When the Wizards lost the season-opener in Atlanta, the excuse for Beal's performance was obvious: He was in foul trouble. But he hasn't been able to shake free long enough to get his shot. And when Beal does get the ball against elite defenders such as Atlanta's Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha, he has to work incredibly hard to find open space.
What are teams doing?
- The Wizards screen heavily for Beal, but defenses are switching 1-4. As a result, Beal isn't getting the real estate.
What can Beal do?
- Attack dribble immediately when any big switches onto him. He showed it in a preseason game vs. the New York Knicks. Kristaps Porzingis ended up in that position and got the blow by for the and-1 (15 seconds into this highlight package).
What is Beal not doing?
- Go back to the fourth quarter of the last game. He's mostly stationary and not always making himself available and in one instance he passed up a short corner three to Markieff Morris, who isn't as good a shooter, for a deeper one at a tougher angle.
What can coach Scott Brooks do?
- It's a good idea to get the best shooter on the team into some flex action. Set cross screens, ideally with another shooter (Otto Porter, maybe?), on the weak side of the floor and have Beal pop to the top of a pindown to create room and generate more mismatches. In the opener with the Hawks, Beal set just one screen and that was on an out-of-bounds play and it freed Andrew Nicholson for a layup. In the pivotal fourth vs. Toronto, Beal didn't set any. His pre-catch activity needs to be higher. The best shooters in the league (Kyle Korver of the Hawks is one) do this a lot.