TrueHoop: Bradley Beal
November, 26, 2013
By Kevin Draper
Special to ESPN.com
Special to ESPN.com
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsDid the Wizards rush their rebuild? It won't matter if John Wall continues his rise in Washington.The nadir of the modern Washington Wizards lasted for two brutal months across the winter of 2009–10, but it was a long time coming. The once-entertaining core of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison aged into an injured and overpaid mess, and instead of injecting the team with youth, management traded away a top-five draft pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. A month into the season, beloved owner Abe Pollin died, and on Christmas Eve, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each other in the locker room. The fallout led to Arenas pleading guilty to a felony, but not before staging a horrifically ill-conceived pregame huddle.
There is no playbook for dealing with that kind of turmoil, but the Wizards eventually followed the game plan of the early-aughts Portland “Jail Blazers” and "Malice at the Palace" Indiana Pacers: clean house. The locker room full of players whose character was described as “questionable” -- Arenas, Crittenton, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Nick Young -- has been disbanded, Blatche the last to go when he was amnestied in the summer of 2012. Less than four years after that fateful Christmas Eve, John Wall and Bradley Beal are firmly situated in the backcourt as new franchise cornerstones. As their rate of maturation accelerates, the playoffs are not a mere hope but an expectation.
Given this lofty promise, the start of the season hasn’t been very encouraging for the 5-8 Wizards. They have already conducted the dreaded "players-only" meeting, and veteran Nene publicly called out the team’s young players. While locker room misbehavior has generally given way to veteran accountability -- the team is 3-1 since the players talked things out -- this isn't exactly what the Wizards had in mind for their new era. And things will only get more thorny in the immediate future with Beal set to miss at least two weeks with a stress injury in his right leg.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty ImagesGilbert Arenas' 50-game suspension in 2009-10 led to a whole new era for the Wizards franchise.
The team does seem to be improving, though, and the catalyst for that turnaround is the scintillating play of Wall. In the Wizards' 98-89 win over the New York Knicks on Saturday night, there were two max players on the court, and one of them was decisively better. It wasn’t Carmelo Anthony.
When Wall has his midrange game working, he is nearly impossible to guard. Crouching in the triple-threat position, there’s nary a defender in the league quick enough to stick with him on his drives, let alone contest jumpers. It now seems likely Wall, who is averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 assists per game with a 19.96 PER, will justify the maximum extension he signed during the offseason.
Wall may be making a lot of noise on his rise to the league's upper echelon, but it doesn't sound like the fan base is listening, at least not yet. Washington is a basketball city, home to more than 10 current NBA players and the celebrated Goodman League. Two major college basketball programs, the Maryland Terrapins and Georgetown Hoyas, are also local. But in the ranks of the city's professional teams, the Wizards are a distant third -- fourth on days when Stephen Strasburg is pitching.
Saturday night’s game against a high-profile and hated opponent drew 18,089 fans, the best total of the young season but still 2,000 short of the Verizon Center’s capacity. Worse yet, it seemed like half of them were Knicks fans.
In Wall (23 years old) and Beal (20) the Wizards seem to have the type of young, dynamic talents needed to keep the team competitive well into the future and, ultimately, make the city care. But Washington hasn't had much had much luck with first-rounders otherwise -- Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker have been busts. Sensing a need to surround Wall with the talent they couldn't find in the draft, Wizards management has made a series of short-term moves, taking on long-term money and giving away draft picks in order to build a roster that will probably top out with a first-round playoff loss this season.
Ultimately, the bifurcated and sloppy development model the Wizards have pursued over the past four years may not matter. The old adage is that the NBA is a stars league, and Wall is brightening into a shiny one. The Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat models are rendered irrelevant if Kevin Durant doesn’t develop or LeBron James suffers a devastating injury. The important moves aren’t the shuffling of players on the periphery but acquiring and developing top-10 players.
The cherry on top of Wall’s 31-point and seven-assist decimation of the Knicks came with 30 seconds left, as Iman Shumpert drove for a consolation bucket. Wall soared in from the weak side, and making full use of his 6-foot-4 frame he audibly spiked the ball into the stands. Postgame he was asked if it was a statement block. "Nah," he said, "we’ve seen the team score the ball at the end of the game on us before, and we didn't like it, we didn't want to give nobody an easy basket to end the game."
It was the safe answer -- the point guard’s locker room persona is as quietly confident as his play on the court is in your face -- but if the Wizards are to overcome a bumpy rebuild, Wall will have to submit statement plays every night.
- Tim Frank of the NBA: "Tonight's NBA games will be played. We are still assessing the situation with regards to the rest of the week."
- Andray Blatche got an assist from some first responders.
- What's going to replace James Harden's beard as the icon of Thunder fanhood? The Lost Ogle offers up 11 nominations.
- Matt Yglesias, Slate's business and economics blogger, on the Harden deal: "[M]y real critique is that the Thunder don't seem to be considering the optionality involved in resigning Harden. Having the guy under contract for a multiyear deal doesn't just carry with it the right to employ Harden's basketball services; it carries the right to trade the right to employ him at any time. So if it did come to pass that the Thunder were a championship-caliber team and nonetheless running some kind of intolerable operating loss, they could always trade him then (or, better, they could trade Westbrook). The existence of the luxury tax can lead to a kind of overthinking and irrational sequencing about these things. When considering whether or not to sign a player for $X million, the question to focus on is whether he produces more than $X million worth of basketball services. If he does, then he's a valuable trade asset at any time. And the luxury tax should be understood as being assessed on the entire team payroll rather than having the entire hit arbitrarily assigned to whomever happens to be the last player you signed."
- Once everyone in the starting lineup is healthy and and the meet-and-greet is over, the Lakers are going to be a bear to defend. Brett Koremenos of Grantland breaks down five devastating sets from five title contenders, including the Lakers' "slot pick-and-roll into high-low" scheme.
- Something we often forget about rookies playing their first regular season game in the NBA: Many of them are taking the floor against their idols. That has to be a bit of a jolt, as Portland's Damian Lillard tells it toward the end of his most recent installment of "License of Lillard."
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus unveils his final SCHOENE predictions for the season. Denver and Atlanta look strong. Oklahoma City and Indiana fall a few rungs. And who projects to have the No. 2 offense in the NBA? Your Minnesota Timberwolves.
- The best in Nikola Pekovic propoganda this side of Podgorica.
- Says here that Eddy Curry will probably start opposite Dwight Howard in the Mavericks' opener in Los Angeles, as Chris Kaman nurses a right calf injury.
- One NBA scout has some unkind words for the Golden State Warriors. From his perch, Richard Jefferson causes headaches, David Lee was known to some Knicks teammates as FEMA because he was never there when you needed him and Mark Jackson doesn't have a feel from the game.
- There aren't any industry studies, but I'd guess there are very few 15 year olds in North America whose Moms chaperoned them to the tattoo parlor -- Wizards rookie Bradley Beal is a notable exception. From Michael Lee in the Washington Post: "Besta Beal joined her son at the tattoo parlor when he got his first ink at age 15, and he needed her permission, because otherwise, 'she would’ve killed me,' Bradley said with a laugh. Beal provided all of the artwork on his arms ... "
- Media outlets across the nation are publishing endorsements for the presidential election. The ClipperBlog editorial board weighs in and endorses ... Eric Bledsoe for Clippers starting shooting guard: "Across the league, NBA head coaches are facing tough choices as they go to fill out their lineup cards for opening night. Candidates have campaigned for spots since the start of training camp, hoping to show they have what it takes to get the job done. Some races were over before they began -- the incumbent's hold on the seat just too strong. But there are those, like the fight for the Clippers' second starting backcourt spot, that keep coaches up at night. Now it's time to make the call ... After thorough review of the candidates, we believe that the player best equipped to fulfill the necessary responsibilities of starting alongside Chris Paul is 22-year old Eric Bledsoe."
- Can Rajon Rondo make the leap to first-team all-NBA?
- Don't you just hate it when you realize that a player you can't stand is, in fact, a big-time contributor? Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili on Jason Terry: "At some point, people who dislike Jason Terry -- myself included -- need to step back and simply start appreciating his production. And let's get this straight now -- I am no fan of Terry's. I think he's bombastic, self-obsessed, and preening. He needs to realize, at some point, that he is not an airplane ... But you know what? He probably was underrated in #NBARank, and in a general sense, Terry is of inconceivably low repute to a vast majority of the NBA's fans. And it makes no sense to me. Last season, Terry was the 5th best shooting guard in the NBA. Really. There were the obvious betters -- Kobe, Wade, Harden, Manu -- and you could make a reasonable case that Joe Johnson was better. Beyond those five? Nobody."
- Our friends at Ball in Europe, without an NBA franchise on the Continent, are considering which NBA team to adopt as their own. You can cast your vote here.
- Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones celebrates the release of Stephen Jackson's "Lonely at the Top," featuring Kevin Durant.
- Did you hear about the time Matt Bonner dragged Jackson to a Coldplay concert?
- Marreese Speights would like to remind you that there are 13 other teams in the Western Conference besides Oklahoma City and the Lakers.
- Serge Ibaka tells us how Brooklyn is like Brazzaville.
July, 19, 2012
By Sean Highkin, Hardwood Paroxysm
- Since the days leading up to the draft, Royce White has been one of the more intriguing personalities in this year's rookie class, and this distinction has only been strengthened by his excellent play in Vegas. Jason Friedman of Rockets.com has a must-read feature on White. Among other things, he talks about the need to nurture his interests outside of basketball in order to improve his game: “We could say that a basketball player, a young kid eating, sleeping and breathing the sport, might help that player more basketball-wise, but life-wise it can’t. You can’t tell me that’s healthy for your all-around well being to just eat, breathe and sleep one thing. If you’re not a well-balanced human it’s no different than if your game’s not well balanced; if you just focus on passing and you can’t shoot or dribble, it’s not good. If we’re giving up humanity for basketball then we’ve got a bigger problem on our hands. At the end of the day, basketball is important but it can’t be at the expense of the bigger picture. I think there is a way to be the best basketball player you can be and have other interests.”
- Jim Buss stopped by the NBA TV booth during the Lakers' Tuesday Summer League game. As expected, there's a lot of talk about the Steve Nash trade and Dwight Howard rumors, but Buss also spends time giving his thoughts on some of the players on the Lakers' Summer League squad.
- The Rockets' Scott Machado and the Kings' Jimmer Fredette break down each other's games in a pair of video interviews on Cowbell Kingdom following strong performances on Monday.
- Brendan Jackson of CelticsHub thinks Dionte Christmas may be worth a roster spot to back up newly signed Jason Terry: "Christmas continues to show that he’s not afraid to shoot the basketball even if it hurts his chances of making this or any NBA roster. Regardless of Summer League shot selection, Christmas displays the type of fearless and aggressive effort you want coming off your bench. He’s almost ignorant of his own abilities and limitations. As if he would continue to attack the basket and shoot if LeBron James or Kobe Bryant were guarding him. I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The Celtics’ options for the backup shooting guard position are looking pretty sparse with the Jason Terry signing officially taking up the mid-level exception, and the C’s could do worse than taking a flyer on Christmas."
- WEEI's Paul Flannery has a more extensive profile of Christmas, detailing the work he's put in to try to make it in the NBA: “'He stuck with John [Hardnett] and worked out every day, worked out in the gym when there wasn’t nobody around but him,' his trainer Chuck Ellis said. 'He always had the will and he always had the determination. Growing up, he got better and got better just by working hard. He’s what you really call a gym rat.'"
- Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company talks to Nuggets Summer League coach Chad Iske about the play of Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton in Vegas.
- Several NBA players name their ideal one-on-one opponents.
- This crossover/no-look pass combo by the Grizzlies' Jeremy Pargo is as impressive as any move you'll see at Summer League.
- Scott Schroeder takes a look at Milwaukee's Tobias Harris, who didn't play much his rookie season but is trying to make a case for more minutes: "The second-year wing played more minutes than anyone else in the afternoon matchup between the Bucks and Washington Wizards and, in a move that won’t surprise most who have followed his career, he did quite a bit with the time he was given. The 6-foot-8 wing followed up a 19-point performance in his Vegas Summer League game earlier this week with a 24-point, 12-rebound performance in his second game of the exhibition season."
- Bucksketball's Jon Hartzell was also impressed with Harris: "He seemed superior to everyone else on the court in both talent and size. The Wizards couldn’t stop him in the post, he showed a somewhat unknown touch on his jumper, and he was constantly in the right position for defensive rebounds. If he can continue with this consistent offense throughout Summer League, then hopefully Hammond will stop talking about how it might be hard for Harris to find minutes behind Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Harris has the offense this team needs and he deserves to be on the floor."
- From Red's Army, a few highlights from Tuesday night's Bulls-Celtics game, in GIF form.
- Truth About It's Adam McGinnis is buying the hype around third overall pick Bradley Beal: "He nailed jumpers on dribble drives, off spot-ups, finished in transition, and sprinkled in a few floaters. When he attacks the basket, he does so instinctively -- almost effortlessly -- and can draw contact for fouls; this aggressiveness will give him the benefit of the doubt on many whistles in the future. Beal rarely forces play, choosing his spots wisely even if he’s mired in a mini-drought of missed buckets. His calm demeanor masks any frustrations while he finds other ways to positively impact the game. Beal recovers sharply on defense without fouling and has advanced timing on his shot-blocking prowess."
- In this video interview, Beal names some of his favorite movies and restaurants, among other things.
July, 17, 2012
By Sean Highkin, Hardwood Paroxysm
- Amin Vafa of Hardwood Paroxysm talked to Dion Waiters about the expectations the rookie faces after a disappointing start at Summer League.
- Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell writes that Kahwi Leonard’s outstanding performance on Sunday evokes lessons from Chris Ballard’s book The Art of a Beautiful Game: “We shouldn’t want to see him dominate, for him to make it look easy. Mistakes are a good thing, so long as they’re coming in ways that Leonard is unfamiliar with. As Sunday night’s game developed, Leonard seemed to make adjustments and improvements on the fly. Where the driving lanes were clogged early, Kawhi figured out how to exploit them and get to the rim.”
- Some teams use Summer League as a means of getting particular guys acclimated to playing together, while others simply focus on giving players minutes. It would appear that the Celtics are in the latter category. First-round picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo both impressed in Boston’s 87-69 victory over the Hawks, but they did not play together much. I asked Melo about this, and he didn’t seem to think it was a predictor of the way the rookies would be used during the regular season: “We’re just playing, having fun, and trying to play hard. We don’t worry about rotations right now.”
- Sullinger’s father instilled an appetite for rebounding in him from preschool, Sullinger tells CSNNE.com’s Jessica Camerato.
- If you watch only one video featuring the Warriors’ Draymond Green getting coffee for Charles Jenkins, waxing philosophical about his love of R&B music, and riding through Las Vegas Aladdin-style on a magic carpet, make it this one.
- Which NBA coach has the best sense of style? Alvin Gentry weighs in.
- James Herbert of Hardwood Paroxysm sat next to Damian Lillard’s mother, who was in the stands as the sixth-overall pick scored 25 points in his Summer League debut for Portland.
- Hornets 247 has video interviews with Austin Rivers and Xavier Henry following the Hornets' loss to the Trail Blazers.
- Blazers rookie Meyers Leonard throws down a dunk in practice and celebrates with a cartwheel, no small feat for a seven-footer. (via OregonLive.com)
- Chris Bosh shares the most impressive meal he's ever cooked, and rates himself as a dancer.
- Charlie Yao of Roundball Mining Company interviews ESPN’s own David Thorpe about Chukwudiebere Maduabum, the Nuggets’ 2011 second-round draft choice who was prevented from entering the league due to visa problems.
- Mike Prada of SB Nation is impressed not only with Bradley Beal’s talent but also his coachability.
- Kyle Weidie of Truth About It points to Wizards guard Earl Calloway as a standout performance from Washington’s loss to the D-League squad whose impact won’t necessarily be reflected in the box score.
June, 26, 2012
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Information
Brad Mills/US PresswireThe Wizards need help in the backcourt, where John Wall ranked last in the NBA in points per play.
The Wizards were among the worst outside shooting teams in the NBA. They shot 32 percent on 3-point attempts, which ranked third-worst in the league.
Despite relying on spot-up jumpers more than any other play type, the Wizards were the third-worst spot-up team. They averaged 0.88 points per spot-up play and shot 36 percent on those shot attempts. Only the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings shot worse and were more inefficient on spot-up plays.
Only four teams averaged fewer points per play this season on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays. The Wizards averaged just 0.72 points per play and shot 37 percent when the ball-handler held onto the ball in pick-and-roll situations.
The Wizards relied on John Wall as their primary ball-handler with over 30 percent of his offense coming from the pick-and-roll. Wall averaged 0.69 points per play and shot 36 percent as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, both of which ranked last in the NBA (min. 200 plays).
The Wizards backcourt wasn’t just inefficient in pick-and-roll situations. Among the 40 players with at least 1,000 plays this season, Jordan Crawford ranked 38th and Wall ranked 40th in points per play.
The Wizards also had the third-worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA this season and the fourth-lowest percentage of assisted field goals.
TOP DRAFT TARGETS
Based on their statistical weaknesses, the Wizards should focus on improving their backcourt in the NBA Draft. The top guard prospect is Bradley Beal, who wasn’t incredibly efficient as a freshman. But Beal improved in the NCAA Tournament.
Beal averaged 1.15 points per play during the NCAA Tournament, which would have ranked in the top-3 percentile during the regular season. His adjusted field-goal percentage of 71 percent would have ranked best in the country during the regular season.
The other top backcourt option would be Weber State’s Damian Lillard, the fourth-most efficient scorer in college basketball this season among the 174 players with at least 500 plays.
Lillard could especially help the Wizards in the pick-and-roll, where he averaged the fifth-most points per play in the country (min. 100 plays). But would the Wizards want to pair Lillard, a 6-foot-2 point guard, with Wall, their franchise point guard drafted No. 1 overall in 2010?
The Wizards could also improve at small forward, where Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely both ranked in the bottom 50 percent of the NBA in points per play. The top options could be North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, neither of which ranked in the top-25 percentile this season in points per play.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.
Get the information you need to be ready for the draft and follow the action Thursday night @ESPNStatsInfo.
June, 25, 2012
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Information
Getty ImagesThe Bobcats could really use a good spot-up shooter to improve their offense.
The two most utilized offensive play types for the Bobcats were spot-up jumpers and transition offense, which made up a third of their offense. They were very inefficient when using those plays, ranking 30th and 29th, respectively, in points per play.
However, they were the 12th-most efficient team in pick-and-roll ball-handler plays. But they only ran the pick-and-roll on 15 percent of their plays, less often than all but six teams.
Their success in the pick-and-roll was largely thanks to guards Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker. Henderson ranked 7th in points per play and (min. 50 plays), and Walker had the 17th-most points in the league as the pick-and-roll ball-handler.
PICK-AND-ROLL BIG MEN
Though the Bobcats’ ball-handlers were efficient in the pick-and-roll, their big men were not. The Bobcats ranked last in points per play by pick-and-roll roll men. Bismack Biyombo ranked dead last in points per play (min. 20 plays), and the team had no players among the top 75 percent in the league.
The Bobcats ranked 29th in the league this season in rebounding percentage, ahead of only the Golden State Warriors. Not a single Bobcat ranked in the top 90 of the league in rebounding percentage. Their best rebounder was Biyombo, who ranked 91st at 14.3 percent.
Twenty percent of the Bobcats’ offense came from spot-up jumpers, but they ranked dead last in points per spot-up play. They shot 34.2 percent on spot-up jumpers and 29.5 percent on 3-point attempts, both of which also ranked last in the NBA.
TOP DRAFT TARGETS
Based on their statistical weaknesses, the Bobcats should be targeting a big man in the NBA Draft who can be an effective pick-and-roll player and rebounder.
Of course, the ideal player would be Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who had the seventh-most points in the country as the pick-and-roll roll man this season and averaged more than 10 boards per game.
With Davis likely going No. 1, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson would the best choice for Charlotte. Robinson scored the 14th-most points in the country as the roll man, ranked second in rebounds per game, and led the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.
If the Bobcats opt for a shooter with their first pick, the top choices would likely include Florida’s Bradley Beal and North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, both of whom shot about 36 percent on spot-up jumpers.
If they wait to draft a shooter with the No. 31 pick, they could select Kentucky’s Doron Lamb or Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins, both of whom ranked in the top 20 nationally in spot-up points and shot nearly 50 percent on spot-up jumpers this season. Lamb also shot 46.6 percent on 3-pointers (17th nationally) and Jenkins led the nation in 3-pointers made (134).
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.