NBA Strategic Skills Coach Drew Hanlen has made a name for himself as one of the NBA's go-to personal trainers for the best players in the game. One of his more recent success stories has been the superstar leap taken by Wizards guard Bradley Beal.
Beal was drafted third overall in 2012, so it's not like he was a no-name without any pedigree. But what Beal and Hanlen have worked to do is add layers to his game beyond just the sweet shooting stroke. And that hard work has turned Beal into one of the most versatile, dynamic offensive weapons in the NBA today.
"The first step was continue to add to his bag," Hanlen told Chris Miller in an interview with NBC Sports Washington ahead of Friday night's game. "When he came in the league, everyone thought he was going to be more of like an old-school Ray Allen, where he was really more of a shooter than a player. But you know the goal has always been to impact winning."
Beal entered the NBA as a skilled shooter, but as the roster around him has evolved he's been forced to add to his game over the years. Interestingly, he's only hitting 32.8% of his three-point shots this season - by far the lowest percentage of his career.
But he's still averaging a career-high 32.5 points per game, which leads the NBA, thanks to the development of his all-around skillset.
"To get to 30 points per game last year, he's worked tremendously hard on his handles, he's worked on his driving ability, he's worked on his shiftiness, he's worked on his finishing ability and his playmaking ability. And this year when he came in the summer, everyone was kind of looking around...I remember all my interns kind of putting their ears toward our conversation because they were like where does he go from here?"
Hanlen doesn't just work with Beal, of course. He's also spent a lot of time with Beal's close friend Jayson Tatum going back to his teenage playing days. And Hanlen points to his experience with Beal in helping develop Tatum's game as well.
"He's cut from the same cloth as Brad," Hanlen said of Tatum. "Basically, success is the only option. Brad deserves a lot of credit for Jayson's success."
The skills coach is also proud of the work put in by Joel Embiid, perhaps the leading candidate for NBA MVP through the All-Star break. Embiid, too, has developed his all-around game and is now showcasing guard-like perimeter skills in addition to his dominant post play on a nightly basis for the first-place 76ers.
The Wizards are hosting Philadelphia Friday night in a clash between two of the best players in the NBA, Beal and Embiid, who have both worked extensively with Hanlen. Tune in to Wizards Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Friday for the full interview with Hanlen and NBC Sports Washington.