Bradley Beal on the Rise
By Brian Martin
When it comes to the 2012-13 rookie class, Portland's Damian Lillard blew out of the gates early and put up a lead on the rest of the field for Rookie of the Year consideration. Lillard has swept the Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors this season, going 4-for-4 on the year, while in the East the award has been spread between Charlotte's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cleveland's Dion Waiters and Washington's Bradley Beal.
While Lillard jumped out quick, Beal and the Wizards struggled early on, losing their first 12 games and stumbling to a league-worst 4-28 following a 28-point loss to the defending champion Heat on Jan. 6 in Miami. The next night back in Washington, the Wizards faced the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder -- how's that for a back to back? -- and found themselves in a tie game with 10 seconds to play.
On the final possession, the ball was in Beal's hands as he dribbled to the top of the key, pump-faked and hit a leaning jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining for his first NBA game-winner. It was the beginning of a run for the Wizards, who would close out the month of January by winning seven of their last 12 games.
As big as the win was over the Thunder, the real catalyst for the change in Washington was the return of John Wall to the lineup, after he missed the first two-and-a-half months of the season with a knee injury. Wall's season debut was Jan. 12, the Wizards' first game after Beal's game-winner, and his return had an immediate impact, not only on the team's record, but the play of their rookie guard as well.
Bradley Beal Statistics -- With and Without John Wall
(Oct. 30-Jan. 7, 31 games)
(Jan. 12-Mar. 3, 20 games)
The difference in Beal's performance with and without Wall in the lineup is staggering. His effective field goal percentage jumped by 13 percent since the point guard returned, and his on-court net rating is up 19.2 points per 100 possessions. The only number that dropped was his assists, and that is because Wall took over the role of lead facilitator on the team, allowing Beal to play his natural position.
A key reason for Beal's dramatic improvement is the quality of shots he is getting with Wall in the lineup. A look at his shot locations shows that he is getting more easy looks (restricted area attempts, corner threes) and connecting on a higher percentage from every spot on the floor.
Bradley Beal Shots By Location
(Oct. 30-Jan. 7, 31 games)
(Jan 12-Mar 3, 20 games)
|Restricted||52.8% (38-72)||62.3% (38-61)|
|In Paint (Non RA)||25.0% (7-28)||41.2% (7-17)|
|Mid-Range||35.0% (55-157)||39.3% (35-89)|
|Left Corner 3||52.0% (13-25)||66.7% (12-18)|
|Right Corner 3||37.5% (9-24)||50.0% (9-18)|
|Above the Break 3||25.0% (21-84)||37.8% (17-45)|
Since Wall's return, the Wizards have gone 14-11, climbed out of the Eastern Conference cellar and become a competitive team on a nightly basis. Of course, now Beal has gone down with a sprained ankle and is listed as day-to-day, after he was hurt in the final minutes of the Wizards' victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, Mar. 3. His status is unknown for Washington's next game on Wednesday in Minnesota.
Assuming Beal returns from the injury quickly and is not impaired down the stretch, the race for Rookie of the Year may end up closer than initially expected when Lillard separated himself from the field early.
A comparison of Beal's and Lillard's stats on a monthly basis shows that Beal is rising, while Lillard is on a slight decline -- perhaps the dreaded rookie wall slowing him down a bit from his torrid start.
Bradley Beal vs. Damian Lillard -- Month-by-Month
February was the highest-scoring month of the season for both Beal and Lillard, at 17.5 and 19.8 points per game, respectively. However, Beal has been much more efficient, with an eFG of 54.7 percent compared to 46.9 percent for Lillard. The only time Lillard had an eFG above 50 percent was the opening month of the season. Beal has had back to back months over 53 percent.
Beal is the better rebounder between the two, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game in February with an 8.5% rebound rate. Meanwhile, Lilllard is the better playmaker, averaging over six assists on the season with an assist rate of 27.8%.
While Lillard has hit shots at a higher percentage than Beal on the season (42.2% vs 40.9%), that is due in large part to Beal's subpar start to the season. Washington's rook shot a season-best 48.1 percent during the month of February, while Lillard's best month was in January at 42.6 percent.
A look at each player's on-court net rating shows that Beal has been +2.4 and +2.9 points per 100 possessions while on the court in the months of January and February, respectively. Lillard, meanwhile, was -0.5 in January and -8.7 in February, his worst month of the season in terms of efficiency.
One final item of note; in the months of January and February, Beal's usage rate was at its lowest, while his PIE rating was at its highest -- a sign that he is getting the most out of the possessions that he works with while on the floor. It's no coincidence that Beal's increase in efficiency across the board began with the return of Wall to the Wizards lineup in early January.