Bradley Beal: Is He Any Good?

Bradley Beal has emerged as a legitimate star for the Washington Wizards, putting up some huge games this year and keeping the team afloat when John Wall went down with an injury.

His 51 points at Portland powered a Wizards win on Dec. 5, and he’s scored at least 20 points in 25 of his 35 games this season. Beal is a great volume scorer, putting up points on the board on a playoff team.

But he’s also got some efficiency problems and can be downright Dark Ages at times. Which leads us to an important question:

Is Bradley Beal actually an offensive force, or is he just a guy who scores lots of points because he takes lots of shots?

We’re adherents to Rasheed Wallace‘s maxim around here. Ball don’t lie. So let’s see what ball says.

The Counting Stats

Beal is averaging 23 points on 18.8 shots per game. That’s 1.22. Which…well, isn’t very good.

He’s making only 2.2 three-pointers, shooting them at a 35.1 percent clip, a huge regression from last year’s career-high 40.4. His overall field goal percentage is down from 48.4 to 44.1, and he’s taking far fewer threes as a percentage of his overall shots.

His turnovers are up (2.1 a game, highest of his career), he’s averaging only 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists…

If you want a historical comparison, how about Jerry Stackhouse? Actually, that’s not fair to Stack. Despite his reputation for scoring 30 points without a rebound or an assist back in the Dark Ages, he actually averaged 3.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 2000-01, his best scoring season, a year he scored 29.8 a game.

Stackhouse is the archetype of the star-but-not-quite-All-Star, making the February exhibition twice while actually recording a negative on-off Net Rating for his 18-year career.

The counting stats paint Beal as a guy who shoots the ball, not always well, and does nothing else for his team.

So that’s not good…let’s see if the analytics can save him.

The Advanced Stats

Let’s put together the Big Five advanced stats: PER, WS/48, BPM, VORP, and on/off Net Rating split, shall we?

For Beal, that’s 19.0, .119, 1.4, 1.1, and 7.1, with positives in all of those last three. His defense is mediocre on its best day, and a volume shooter should be better-positioned to take advantage of the fantasy-points nature of PER. All of those numbers are good; none of them, except that 7.1 on/off split that comes from the Wiz having an excellent starting unit with Beal, Wall, and Otto Porter, are beyond “very good” and into “great”.

Beal’s True Shooting is down from .604 to .544, a problem when his Usage Rate (29.0) is at a career high.

But he’s regressed in every major advanced stat, including that net rating split, down from 12.8 last season.

Beal was a genuine All-Star last season and had a strong case for being in the game. This year? Not so much.

The question is whether this is attributable to having to do too much with Wall hurt or whether Beal just isn’t a guy who can be the primary scorer in your offense.


Honestly, I just don’t see Beal doing anything well on the court other than shooting the ball. He’s a poor passer, a mediocre rebounder on his best day, a defensive liability, and not nearly as much of a guy who can stake the starters to a lead the bench can’t fritter away.

But Beal is 24, he’s been in the league since he was 19, and he’s shown massive growth over his early seasons. He’s set the bar high, and it’s hard not to look at Wall’s troubles this season and not want to give Beal the benefit of the doubt.

Which…well, you know what that means. Is Bradley Beal good? I can’t call it confirmed. But it’s Plausible. And besides, there are worse things to be in this life than Jerry Stackhouse 2.0.