Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal is up for an extension this summer, with the two sides able to negotiate a deal right up until the beginning of the season. Beal is a rather fascinating case in terms of his value, as he’s clearly an excellent talent who fits nicely with backcourt mate John Wall. With the 24-year-old Wall already locked up long term, it makes sense for the Wizards to want to lock up the 22-year-old Beal long term as well.
But for how much? Beal’s been a somewhat inconsistent performer over the course of his young career, and he has a troubling history of stress reactions in his lower right leg.
J. Michael of CSN Washington reported a week and a half ago that Beal and the Wizards are still talking about a new deal, but are “not close” yet. One has to imagine Beal is looking for a max or near-max extension, which would start at around $21 million a year thanks to the cap ballooning to around $90 million in 2016. Meanwhile, the Wizards would surely like to get the youngster at a bit less than that because of some of those question marks on his resume.
Beal had a solid but not special 2014-15 campaign, averaging 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 33.4 minutes per game. He shot an impressive 40.9 percent from three, but he only shot 42.7 percent overall, got to the free throw line less than three times per game and sported a mediocre PER of just over 14.
Part of Beal’s problem is the offense he plays in and a willingness to fire up countless long twos despite not being particularly good at them. Take a look at his shot chart from last season:
We already knew Beal was a good three-point shooter, but his 63.7 percent at the rim was solid as well. The problem is all that ugly red inside the arc. Over 37 percent of his shots came from mid-range, and he made under 34 percent of those attempts. He was bad in the non-restricted paint area as well, showing that he really needs to improve that in-between game. And simply put, it would be beneficial if he cut down on some of those mid-range shots that are so prevalent in Randy Wittman’s offense. Beal took over five pull-up two-pointers per game and made under 35 percent of those shots, per SportVU.
Beal could also stand to improve in the pick-and-roll game. He has some nice ball handling skills and has shown the ability to be a solid facilitator, but he shot just 34.9 percent as the pick-and-roll ball handler this past season, ranking in the 25th percentile with 0.65 Points Per Possession, per Synergy.
But for all of his inconsistencies and injury problems, Beal has proven that he can step up when it matters most in the playoffs. In his playoff debut in 2013-14, he outplayed Jimmy Butler in the first round and finished the postseason with averages of 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 41.6 minutes per game. His overall shooting percentage of 42.4 percent still wasn’t great (thanks again to the abundance of mid-range shots), but his 53.1 true shooting percentage was an improvement over his regular-season number, which was mighty impressive for a 20-year-old.
This past postseason, Beal averaged 23.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 41.8 minutes per game. His playoff true shooting percentage (51.8) was just a tad lower than his mark from the regular season (52.1), but he was a bit hobbled and he did a nice job stepping up with Wall hurting as well. And again, he did this at just 21 years old.
There’s no doubt Beal is going to get paid a handsome amount, and it’s almost certainly going to come from the Wizards, whether it’s this summer in an extension, next summer in a new deal or next summer in a matched offer sheet. Beal and the Wizards could hold off on an extension intentionally to create a bit more flexibility next summer for a run at Kevin Durant (a la Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs), but Beal may want to lock himself into a deal sooner rather than later because of his injury history.
Of course, that’s only if Beal finds an offer he likes this summer, and there’s clearly a bit of a gap right now. Washington is right to not put a max contract on the table right now, and we’ll see if either side bends before the season.