Prior to the start of the 2014-2015 season, there was optimism abound about Bradley Beal. If you spoke to any Wizards fan, you were guaranteed to hear one of the following statements:
· “Bradley Beal is going to be one of the top 2-guards in the league.”
· “Bradley Beal and John Wall are the best backcourt in the league.”
· “Bradley Beal is the new Ray Allen.”
The new Ray Allen. That’s a huge statement. To call someone “ the new Ray Allen” suggests that they have the potential to become at least one, if not all, of the following:
· A perennial All-star.
· One of the best 2-guards in the NBA.
· One of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history.
· One of the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history.
· A Hall-of-Famer.
· A star in a Spike Lee Joint.
· Possessor of the most beautiful stroke in the NBA.
The last one is Bradley Beal’s greatest gift, and greatest curse. That stroke. If you love basketball, you could watch Bradley Beal just run shooting drills for hours on end. It’s beautiful. The form. The elevation. The balance. The release. The sound of the net. “Splash.” When you watch Bradley Beal shoot, there’s only two other names that come to mind. One is Ray Allen. The other is Jesus Shuttlesworth.
But as the 2014-2015 season has actually unfolded, Bradley Beal hasn’t taken that leap. He’s shown flashes, and he’s had failures, and he’s generated a lot of frustration. A lot of that frustration can be traced directly to the Wizards style of play this season, and their refusal thus far to truly embrace the three-point shot, despite having good 3-point shooters, and the best 3-point set-up man in the NBA. Beal is shooting 44% from 3-point range, but only attempting four per game, down almost a full attempt from last season (the Wizards as a team shoot only 15 three’s per game).
However, patience is a virtue. Let’s use Jesus (Shuttlesworth) as our guide:
First three seasons:
· Bradley Beal: 15.5 ppg, 42% FG, 1.8 threes made, 4.4 threes attempted, 40% 3FG
· Ray Allen: 16.6 ppg, 43% FG, 1.5 threes made, 4.1 threes attempted, 37% 3FG
So through three seasons, the Bradley Beal vs. Ray Allen comparisons actually DO apply. The question lies in how and when Beal makes “the leap.” In year 4, Allen jumped to 22.1 ppg, and steadily improved for TEN MORE YEARS until he peaked as a number one option during the 2006-2007 season in Seattle, and threw down THESE numbers:
· 26.4 ppg, 44% FG, 3.0 threes made, 8.1 threes attempted, 37% 3FG, 4 apg, 5rpg.
WOW! Those are great numbers. To do that in your 13th season? Spectacular (We’ll get back to this). So how did Ray Allen follow up his career season? By reinventing himself (in year FOURTEEN!) as a championship level secondary option on the Boston Celtics, a team that won the Finals during the 2007-2008 season. Ray in Boston:
· 16.7 ppg, 47% FG, 2.2 threes made, 5.4 threes attempted, 41% 3FG.
At first glance, this seems like almost the same Ray Allen from his first three Milwaukee seasons. The difference? In those first three seasons in Milwaukee, as a number one option, 30 percent of Allen’s shot attempts were 3’s. In Boston, 43 percent of Allen’s shot attempts were 3’s.
Bradley Beal? Just 31 percent of his shot attempts are 3’s. As a secondary option (like Allen in Boston), this number has got to go up.
Backtrack about five paragraphs: Ray Allen had his greatest statistical season in year 13. This does not happen by accident. This happens with a supreme work ethic, bordering on pathological obsession (literally, Allen had OCD about his shooting workouts). This only happens when a guy dedicates himself fully to improving every year, year after year after year. And then, to reinvent yourself as a role player, after being THE man your entire career? This happens with an intense desire to win combined with an exceptional understanding of your own game, and where that game fits within your team and within the game of basketball.
And that is why the Wizards need to call on Jesus (Shuttlesworth). Call him again and again and get him on this roster before someone else does. Because Bradley Beal does have the potential. He has the talent and ability to be a perennial All-Star, or better. He plays alongside a bonafide superstar in John Wall, in the ideal setting to be a championship level secondary option. Ray Allen has been both.
Yes, Ray Allen can help this team now. Yes, the Wizards need a boost off the bench. But maybe more importantly, imagine the effect Ray Allen could have on Beal’s career. Learning to work. Learning to practice. Improving and adjusting his game. There’s no one better to guide Bradley Beal towards his destiny of becoming the next Ray Allen than Ray Allen.
Only Greatness equals Greatness. But Greatness takes time. With a little patience, and a little guidance from Jesus (Shuttlesworth), maybe Beal will one day hit a divine shot like this:
And those strokes! Imagine watching Bradley and Ray stroking it in an empty gym. “Splash. Splash. Splash. SPLASH.” Oh, God, I need a tissue (for my eyes! The thought brings tears of joy. Duh!)
So please Mr. Grunfeld, hurry! Make the call, or calls, or personal visits. Whatever it takes. Oh, but if Ray ends up alongside King Crab Dribble out in Ohio, then let’s just pretend his whole column never happened.