Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal has been at the center of recent trade rumors, though it seems unlikely that he’ll be moved.
Of course, his name has been mentioned often when discussing potential moves around the NBA. We wrote about his potential fit with the Los Angeles Lakers in November 2018 and what Washington would need back in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets in January 2019.
Wizards general manager Tommy Shepard has said that Beal is the type of player to build a team around, which is precisely why they have no plans to trade him (via CBS Sports):
“The way that I look at this is pretty simple: If you were looking to build a team, Brad would be the type of player anyone would want to start with. You look at the character, the talent, the age, just the whole package… Brad is without a doubt a core player in this league. Every team would love to have him, and we do.”
Beal, still just 26 years old, is confident that he is still improving and is a far better player now than he was even just three years ago.
He is a shooting ace and has now scored at least 40 points in a game on 16 different occasions over the past two seasons. Remember: Beal boasted the highest scoring average of any All-Star snub ever.
When breaking down his film, it is clear that Beal is an incredibly ball-dominant player for someone who is not a traditional point guard. He had a usage rate (35.1%) that ranked in the 99th percentile among all players classified as wings by Cleaning the Glass.
Especially without John Wall, who has missed extended time due to injury issues, Beal was the unquestioned focal point of his offense. The guard has acknowledged this, saying that he is “the franchise” in Washington. He has become the unquestioned alpha dog and QB1 for the Wizards since Wall got hurt.
Despite a lack of star power and All-Star teammates around him, Beal has scored at a prolific rate as the No. 1 option.
The Wizards have the fifth-best offensive rating (111.1) in the Eastern Conference, slightly above the league average (110.4) in 2019-20. The team has scored 116.9 points per 100 possessions when Beal is on the court, per Pivot Analysis, and they slip to 109.9 during the minutes he’s off the floor.
His assist percentage (28.5%) ranks in the 98th percentile among wings, showing that he is an all-around talent and not just a volume scorer. When including his passes, nearly half (44.5%) of his offensive finishes were as the ball-handler in pick-and-roll sets.
Perhaps most impressive is that when looking at the number of buckets that a player is directly involved in either as the scorer or passer, Beal ranks as the seventh-best (39.2%) in the NBA. That is higher than the rates recorded by stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo (38.4%) and Devin Booker (37.7%) in 2019-20.
One of the biggest questions: How much of his offensive potency actually derives from the fact that Beal is the primary scoring option for his squad, especially as Wall recovers from injuries? What does that mean for his future when Wall, a five-time All-Star, returns to Washington?
Since the beginning of his 2016-17 campaign (the first season in which he eclipsed 20-plus points per game), Beal has averaged a clip of 26.7 points per 36 minutes without Wall on the court. That rate was still strong at 22.2 points per 36 with Wall on the floor. Beal is capable of scoring when the offense does not run through him, though he is more effective on-ball.
He has acknowledged that the Wizards have built their team around him and that would likely not be the case elsewhere if he were moved (via The Undefeated):
“It wouldn’t necessarily be my team to where now I’m in a situation in Washington where I’m being built around. I know I’m going to have to take these bumps and bruises. I knew this last summer. I knew this, hell, the summer maybe even before that. You just got to grind it out, and stand true to who you are.”
Overall, his scoring style is better suited as the primary option for his team, which is the set up that he currently enjoys in Washington. He averaged 7.5 points per game on jump shots taken off the dribble, per Synergy, sixth-best in the NBA, and was 41.1% from the field on these looks. Yet he scored 3.5 points per game when shooting off the catch and hit only 35.2% of these attempts.
If he ended up on the Brooklyn Nets or the Los Angeles Lakers, rumored teams that reportedly covet his services, he would likely end up as more of a catch-and-shoot player because of his reputation as a three-point marksman.
Both the Nets (Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving) and Lakers (LeBron James, Anthony Davis) have superb interior finishers, which leads to open shots on the perimeter. Beal averaged 1.14 points per possession unguarded off the catch, which ranked just 46th percentile in the NBA.
Meanwhile, by staying on the Wizards, Beal will soon be able to be on the court alongside Wall once again. Wall, who said that he and Beal recently had a “grown men” conversation to repair their relationship, is nearing a return from his lingering health issues.
“It was crazy. It was like a couple weeks ago it was his first practice and he just brought a spark. I was like, ‘Dang, that’s what we’ve been missing the whole year.’ Like, we haven’t had that.”
The franchise will have a more viable one-two punch with both players on the court together for the first time since December 2018. Wall may be more willing to be more of a secondary option, too, potentially transitioning a bit when he returns (especially right out the gate).
Beal might be the next white whale that front-office executives around the league would love to catch. Considering he is the leading scorer in the Eastern Conference in 2019-20, however, don’t expect Washington to make such a move this offseason.