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Pump the Brakes With Beal

 

I've been writing all season that fans shouldn't get too worried about the performance of Bradley Beal. The start of his career was pretty normal for a teen age rookie guard -- below average play characterized by poor shooting. Then in January, shots started falling, the team won a few games, and suddenly fans are enraptured.

And, just as fans were took quick to start tossing around words like "bust" in reference to Beal, they're premature in anointing him as "arrived." Is he playing better? You bet. Is it sustainable? Well...maybe not.

See, virtually all of his improvement has come in the form of better three-point shooting. Anyone who thinks he's going to continue shooting 60.4% from 3pt range, please raise their hand.

Didn't think so.

Here's a table showing Beal's pace-adjusted per 40 minute stats month by month this season. At the bottom, I've included my summary stat measure, PPA (which stands for Player Production Average).

PPA is a rating system I developed that credits players for things they do that contribute to winning, and debits them for things that don't -- each in proper proportion. It includes an accounting for defense, as well as a "degree of difficulty" adjustment based on an estimate of the level of competition they've faced. In PPA, average = 100, higher is better, and replacement level is 45.

BEAL  Oct/Nov  December  January 
GMS  14  12  10 
MPG 27.8 32.6  36.4 
Usg%  21.0% 21.7%  20.3% 
Ortg  91 96  117 
efg .404 .396  .576 
2pt%  .333 .447  .412
3pt% .339 .184  .604 
FT% .857 .865  .679 
3FA  6.1 5.0  5.3 
FTA  4.3 3.8  3.1 
REB  4.7 4.8  3.6 
AST 2.5 4.2  3.4 
STL  1.1 1.3  1.3 
BLK  0.7 0.4  0.6 
TOV  2.6 1.7  1.7 
PF  2.2 3.0  2.2 
PTS  15.9 16.5  20.5 
PPA  47 61  154 
       

Ortg = individual offensive rating, which is points produced per 100 possessions. It's an overall efficiency measure that accounts for shooting from the field and from the free throw line, assists, offensive rebounding and turnovers.

Usg = percentage of the team's possessions the player used while on the floor.

When I look at the numbers, I see a lot to like. His overall game has been acceptable all season, but note that there's really only one category where he's gotten appreciably better in January -- 3pt%. 

Just to be clear -- this is NOT criticism of Beal. I think he's doing well, and I'm pleased with his excellent shooting in January. I still expect him to have an excellent NBA career. My aim here is merely to temper the enthusiasm and bring expectations back to earth. He's going to be good, but the January numbers aren't really an indicator of that. Unless, of course, he continues to shoot 60% from 3pt range.

On to the rest of the team's numbers. Below is the weekly PPA update:

PLAYER GMS  MPG  STA%  LW  PPA 
John Wall 24.6  50%  32  144 
Emeka Okafor 38  24.1  82%  123  129 
Nene Hilario 25  24.2  67%  136 121 
A.J. Price 23  26.3  78%  94 109 
Trevor Ariza 21  24.4  71%  97 95 
Jordan Crawford 33  29.0  63%  99 94 
Martell Webster 37 
26.5  70%  87 91 
Bradley Beal 36  31.8  77%  69 86 
Trevor Booker 12  21.9  70%  86 84 
Shelvin Mack 20.1  58%  68 68 
Cartier Martin 23  17.6  45%  62 63 
Garrett Temple 11  26.3  68%  43 52 
Shaun Livingston 17  18.8  56%  36 36 
Chris Singleton 29  16.8  57%  32 31 
Kevin Seraphin 37  25.5  57%  24 30 
Jan Vesely 30  12.9  49%  6 13 
Earl Barron 11  11.1  46%  10 10 
Jannero Pargo 14.6  43%  -56 -56 
           

First thing that jumps out at me is the guy at the top of the chart: John Wall. The sample size is obviously tiny, but Wall has been playing well. He's been the team's most productive player, and he's producing at a level far above what he's done in his first two seasons.

What has he done well? Lots of assists and loads of free throw attempts. His offensive rating is at 108 points produced per 100 possessions -- above average for the first time in his career. What does he need to do better? Shoot the ball more accurately (efg of .424 vs. a league average of .491), and play more under control (4.9 pace-adjusted turnovers per 40 minutes).

Biggest "decliner" this week was Nene, falling from 136 to 121. His drop was offset by Wall's return, as well as significant improvement from Price and Beal. Seraphin and Vesely each nudged their season numbers up, which indicates they were better this week. Both still have a long ways to go.

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