As Bradley Beal's strong preseason continues, so does the hype. And it should. Beal was taken No. 3 in 2012 thanks to the tremendous potential he offers as a scoring guard.
It just so happens he's already started flying up the elevator toward his towering NBA ceiling. Beal averaged nearly 14 points per game as a rookie, though injuries hurt his rhythm and ultimately cut his season short.
Now a sophomore, Beal is poised for a monster year that could quickly land him on All-Star radars.
Based on what we've seen at Florida and in Washington, he's a player who thrives off confidence. And at this point, it seems to be at an all-time high.
As a rookie, Beal's scoring confidence steadily increased as his season progressed. He was ultimately limited the last two months of the year with an ankle injury, but from November to February, Beal had become deadlier and deadlier by the month.
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As Beal got more comfortable with the size and spacing of the game, along with his role on the team, he quietly emerged into an everyday scorer. The more shots he took, the more productive and efficient he became—two outcomes that usually don't go hand in hand.
Now healthy with a year of experience under his belt, Beal appears to have harnessed the confidence he built last year and surrounded it with a cage resistant to rattling. He looks completely locked in through a few preseason games, most notably against Dwyane Wade and the Heat, when he went off for 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Though it's just preseason, he's visibly more sure of himself in every aspect of the game. But before getting into how Beal will exceed the hype, it's important to address what created it in the first place.
Beal is a terrific athlete with perfect 2-guard size, sculpted shoulders and spring in his legs. He can pick up easy buckets at the rim by finishing off cuts in the half court and fast breaks in transition. Though not overly explosive, his agility and 39'' max vertical allow him to glide around defenders and finish above the rim.
And he's always been a prospect with elite shooting potential. Beal has a picturesque outside stroke you could feature on a postcard. Nobody seemed to care when he shot less than 34 percent from downtown in his one-and-done year at Florida.
With textbook mechanics and natural touch, scouts knew it was only a matter of time before his jumper turned automatic.
Beal shot a rock-solid 38.6 percent from downtown as a rookie. A deeper arc didn't phase Beal; rather, it aided him as a shooter by improving the spacing on the floor and increasing his open looks from the perimeter.
On any ordinary night, Beal remains a consistent threat to pick up double-digit points just by catching and shooting or running action towards the rim.
What's going to propel Beal to an All-Star level in 2013-14 is his improvement in between. His in-between game appears to be a whole lot more polished and refined, from his handle to his shot-creating ability in the mid-range.
He's making adjustments, whether that's pulling up instead of attacking traffic:
Or using a pump fake to free himself up:
He's on track to becoming a more complete scorer—one who can score opportunistically as a go-to guy or as a complementary option. Extremely mature and disciplined, Beal's basketball IQ and shot-making ability allow him to put up points within the flow of the offense, an admirable quality for an offensive-minded 2-guard.
Alongside John Wall, a playmaker who excels at creating scoring chances for teammates, Beal is in nice position to thrive as a sophomore.
By the end of the year, I'm not sure we'll be able to name five shooting guards we'd rather have. Expect around 17-18 points per game from Beal as the Wizards' leading scorer and playoff-run catalyst.
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