November 5, 2012 Beal Blog: Reviewing Bradley Beal Vs Celtics
Knowing that Doc Rivers typically prepares his team adequately on defense, I figured that Bradley Beal would face a stiff test early in his career against the Celtics. Boston is no longer the best defensive team in the league, as they were when Garnett first arrived (age has slowed them down), but they are still very challenging for offensive players and provide fantastic help defense. They also have Courtney Lee, who was tasked with keeping Bradley Beal in check for the majority of the game. And, well, he basically did that and then some.
I followed Beal the entire game trying to get a good look at what he does right, and what he does wrong on both the offensive and defensive ends. Needless to say, Bradley Beal’s home opener will be one that he would like to forget for a long time, as it may very well go down as one of the worst games of his career. He looked lost most of the time on the court, and failed to make his mark on the game (which actually ended up getting him benched for large parts of the game), with a final stat line of 2 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assists on 0-for-5 shooting in 21:52 minutes of play. We’ll start by breaking down his offensive performance.
Offensively the biggest problem I saw with Beal was his lack of aggression. For someone who has such a smooth stroke, he was amazingly passive during this game, and never established himself early on offensively. I understand playing within the flow of the game could ultimately help the team more, but Beal failed to attempt a shot until the 5 minute mark of the first quarter, where he bricked a jumper that was lightly contested. It seemed like he just wanted to get his first shot up, as it looked a little hurried.
Rushed shots will happen when any player spends the majority of the game hanging out by the three point line doing absolutely nothing. Beal was not brought in to be a spot up shooter, but that’s exactly how he was playing on Saturday night. On essentially every possession, Beal stood in the same spot and didn’t move at all. Courtney Lee actually left him a few times because he was such a non-factor in the offense. When he was open, A.J. Price didn’t exactly find him, but that isn’t fault. The two times that Beal did get the ball at the three point line, he missed the shots (although in fairness, one barely rimmed out). So his experiment at being J.J. Redick for a game failed.
The only real positive play he made on the offensive end, as much as that pains me to say, is when he aggressively drove to the basket and drew contact for two free throws early in the third quarter. It was notable only because Beal did what he could and should have done all game long, which is get to the rack. He tried the same thing once again, but missed pretty badly when the foul wasn’t called.
Now, part of his offensive struggles were due to the fact that Courtney Lee (and occasionally Rajon Rondo) were guarding him. Rondo is a solid defender, but Lee is a pretty darn good one, and it showed against Beal. Most of the time Lee just pushed Beal back to the three point line, but that was about it. Beal never pressed the issue on offense and made Lee’s job pretty easy. If he can’t get more aggressive against the Celtics next game, the results will be the exact same. The Celtics are difficult in that they are physical on the defensive end, and even if you beat one defender, their help defense is second to very few teams, so there is another player to beat as well. Beal is going to have to learn that quickly, and adjust accordingly. Hanging out at the three point line is far from what he was brought in to do.
Defensively, Bradley Beal should be considered lucky that Courtney Lee was not having the best offensive performance, because he fared pretty poorly overall against him. Courtney Lee was 0-for-4 on three point shots, but that wasn’t because of tight defense by Beal. It was because he missed open, uncontested shots. The Celtics ball movement confused Beal a lot, as he was caught ball watching a lot on the court. Lee came off screens and found himself wide open on the three point line at least twice. Beal tried to recover and contest the shot, but by the time he jumped to get into Lee’s face, the ball was already in the air.
On another possession, Lee spun off Beal on the low block, spun off him and went straight to the rack for a layup. There should have been some help defense there, but Beal got taken to task relatively quickly. It was a veteran move by Lee, and there isn’t much Beal could do except try to stay in front of him. That didn’t happen, though. Beal isn’t slow, but he also isn’t fast enough to hug the guy he is defending so closely. His lateral movement stuck out as being less than stellar.
Overall, when Beal was out of the game the Celtics actually fared worse on offense. Beal is a young player, and becoming a world class defender doesn’t happen overnight. Luckily, everything he did was correctable, and it didn’t stem from a lack of effort on his part. He will learn eventually not to ball watch, and will certainly do a better job at staying in front of his opponents and fighting through screens (which the Celtics run plenty of). But for his second game, at least, Beal gets a D on defense.
Beal failed to do anything offensively or defensively, and while an F may seem harsh, he was one of the worst players on the court and deserved the grade. He and Ariza looked pretty bad out there, and as a result they got benched for large parts of the game. Hopefully against the Celtics next game, Beal will perform a whole lot better.