Wizards' rookie Bradley Beal has gotten one heckuva NBA education in his rookie season. The youngest player in the league has gone from scaring fans into thinking he's a bust, to being selected (preposterously) for the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in December, to having a stretch of solid play the past few weeks.
I've been writing all season that it's too soon to worry about Beal as a bust candidate. Teen rookie guards tend to struggle in their first year -- even guys who go on to become all-time greats.
Comparing Beal's first 35 games to the other 61 rookie guards age 20 or younger (minimum 200 minutes) since 1984-85 doesn't provide a solid indicator of what kind of pro he'll ultimately be. His Player Production Average (PPA) is a 74, which is solidly below average for all NBA players (100 is average), but which is a shade above average for a teen rookie guard.
Here's the full list of teen rookie guards with an above average rating through the first 35 games of their careers:
Chris Paul -- 152
Kyrie Irving -- 142
Joe Johnson -- 118
Andre Iguodala -- 112
Tyreke Evans -- 111
Gilbert Arenas -- 107
Sergio Rodriguez -- 104
Stephon Marbury -- 103
Derrick Rose -- 102
Now consider some names NOT on that list, including John Wall (98), Russell Westbrook (89), Jason Richardson (88), Mike Conley (81), James Harden (80), Kobe Bryant (53), Baron Davis (48), J.R. Smith (16), and Jamal Crawford (5).
Beal falls basically in the middle of this group. Many of the guys ahead of him turned out to be quality pros...but not all. The guys who fall below him in this ranking of teen rookie guards are a mixed bag of quality players (Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant) and guys who never amounted to much.
Here's a quick look at Beal's per 40 minute stats through the first 35 games of his rookie season compared to the average for teen rookie guards through the first 35 games of their rookie seasons:
Usg in the table is possessions used per 40 minutes.
The stat that jumps out to me first is 2pt%. Teen rookie guards have a tough time converting from 2pt range as a group -- Beal more than most. In this group of 61 players, he's just 45th in 2pt%.
Is this cause for concern? Well, number 44 on the list (ahead of Beal by .001) is James Harden.
Otherwise, Beal looks like a perfectly normal teen rookie guard. Maybe the assists are on the low side, but the list includes PGs and Beal, of course, is a SG. When I look at this issue next, I may eliminate those PGs from the pool.
While Beal has played better in January, the message here is pretty neutral. There's certainly no reason for concern -- he seems to be a normal teen rookie guard. But, there's also no reason in the numbers to get particularly excited about his prospects. His production still falls along the "he could go either direction" fault line. What kind of pro he'll become will depend on how hard and how smart he's willing (or able) to work.
My opinion of his long-term outlook remain what they've been -- that he'll be a very good NBA player. His college numbers compared favorably to other freshman guards, and what I've seen of him suggest a guy who will work hard to develop his game.