Here to encourage the Wizards to draft Bradley Beal (pictured with girlfriend Kytra Hunter) is Florida blog Alligator Army’s Andy Hutchins.
After Anthony Davis, the shot-eating mantis who will be the first pick, there’s a lot more doubt in the 2012 NBA Draft. No player has Davis’ potential to make a franchise a contender in short order, and many more have significantly more doubts about their games. The second-best player in the draft, though, is Florida’s Bradley Beal — and the Wizards better hope he falls to them at the third pick.
Beal’s game is persistently compared to Ray Allen’s, and he does have things in common with Jesus Shuttlesworth, but that’s a lazy, moldy comparison that sees Beal as primarily a shooter with a silky stroke; instead, he’s a scorer, with little in the way of a mid-range game but plenty of potential to develop it and all the tools necessary to do so. Beal has great instincts as a slasher and was deadly when coming off screens and heading to the hoop in Billy Donovan’s offense. His three-point shot was not quite as good as advertised, and he just slightly edged Mike Rosario for fourth place in three-point percentage on Florida’s team of long-range bombers, but, if you accept a bit of data from a small sample size, he was red-hot in postseason play, making 15 of 35 threes (42.9 percent) in six games in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.
Given that profile alone, I think Beal’s far more like Dwyane Wade and has a not-insignificant chance of being better than Wade. And Beal’s all-around game and defense back that perspective up.
Beal’s an excellent scorer with superior athleticism, but his most extraordinary skill is his rebounding. He pulled down 6.7 rebounds/game (leading a Florida team that has a future NBA player, Patric Young, down low), and did it with equal parts athleticism, hustle and savvy. Beal uses his long arms and great size for a guard (he’s not actually 6’3″, but more like 6’5″, and plays taller still) to pull down boards, and was consistent in doing that, especially late in the year, grabbing six or more rebounds in all but one of Florida’s games in February-March. And rebounding, time and again, has proven to be a skill that translates from the collegiate level to the NBA; doesn’t a shooting guard who can get seven boards/game sound good?
Beal’s defense isn’t nearly that good, but he’s a willing and capable defender and has the athleticism and basketball IQ to become an incredible one. Beal has the instincts and physical tools to be the sort of disruptive defender Wade is, and though he hasn’t quite put it all together as a defender yet, the promise is substantial.
Maybe Beal’s biggest weakness is his inability to consistently create for others. He was a decent passer who made more than a few head-scratching errors over the course of the season and was casual with the ball. The final meaningful play of Florida’s season was Beal’s traveling violation against Louisville in the Elite Eight, and it still feels fitting as a microcosm of the Gators’ season — hitched to Beal, especially during their late run to the Elite Eight, Florida became an excellent team, but not an invincible one.
Beal’s leadership in that effort — he was clearly Florida’s best player early on, but patiently waited and did what he was asked to do, then was asked by Donovan to be the team’s tip of the spear — is heartening, too. And he’s only going to come off better in individual workouts and interviews, which means Wizards fans might have to worry about him going second to the Bobcats more than what they would get with him.
The chances Bradley Beal becomes the star of a championship contender, I think, are very good. The chances he will be a bust are slim. And if he goes to the Wiz, Washington fans have a great chance of having a new favorite player very shortly.
(Image of Beal and Hunter taken with love from GatorCountry.com.)