March 22, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal (23) shoots the ball against the Marquette Golden Eagles during the second half in the semifinals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at US Airways Center. The Gators defeated the Golden Eagles 68-58. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Bradley Beal is an odd case. A heralded recruit out of college with a silky smooth jumper, he was declared the second coming of Ray Allen. After a year playing for the Florida Gators, that comparison seems woefully misguided. He's developed a free-flowing transition game, has nabbed scores of defensive boards, but he hasn't been a knock-down three-point shooter. In fact, he wasn't particularly good from beyond the arc in his freshman campaign, shooting a paltry 34%. For comparison, Ray Allen shot 40, 45, and 47% on threes in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons at UCONN, respectively.
Any team that drafts Beal should be under no illusion that they will be receiving an elite three-point shooter. But they will be drafting a shooting guard dangerous from any spot on the floor, one that's effective as a spot-up shooter, in pick-and-rolls, shooting off the dribble, and driving to the basket.
Hailing from St. Louis, Bradley Beal lacks the fascinating backstory of Davis or Robinson. He took the standard progression to stardom in today's prep world - get scouted from an early age, play for all kinds of all-everything teams, earn awards, get recruited, go to a top college program. Among his pre-college accolades are a FIBA U-17 World Championship and the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award.
Based on most statistical measures, Beal isn't anything special. He managed a 112 offensive rating at Florida with a 22.5% usage rate, posting a 53% effective field goal percentage and a -1.91 Pure Point Rating (yikes). His draft stock seems highly dependent on the assumption that his 34% three point percentage in his freshman campaign was an aberration.
He looks more active on the defensive end, accounting for 25% of Florida's blocks (as a SG!), pulling down 6.3 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, and ranking seventh in the SEC in steals.
Madison Dan over at Canis Hoopus has a rather interesting way of looking at top players. He looks at how players perform against top-100 RPI competition. While not a perfect control, it does a pretty good job showing how prospects' performance differs when they go up against top competition. Beal suffers by this comparison, not looking any better than Terrence Ross or a whole host of other shooting guards that will be available late in the first round.
Bradley Beal's shot is a joy to watch. He releases quickly and consistently, gathering the ball and moving into his shooting form quickly and fluidly, even when receiving an inaccurate pass. His release seems to be pure and fundamentally sound. It's puzzling, then, why he doesn't have a higher field goal percentage. If you want to get a feel for Beal's shooting, here's a video of all his shots against Ohio State and Mississippi State from last year.
As a ball-handler and playmaker, Beal has made great strides over the past year. While not a great finisher at the rim, he is capable of driving to the basket and scoring, especially when he already has an extra step, and makes it to the free throw line at an above-average clip. Beal could be effective on pick and rolls in the NBA, since he displays solid court awareness and passing skills, as well as an ability to shoot off the dribble from any spot on the court. On the defensive end, he's plagued by inconsistency, but has the frame and athleticism to be a plus defender in the NBA.
The fundamental problem with placing Beal on the Hornets' draft board is that he would be a backup for Eric Gordon for a long period of time. That's reinforced by Draft Express's best case/worst case for Beal - they say the best case is Eric Gordon and the worst case is Gary Neal. It's tough to justify putting a player whose best case is your starting shooting guard very high on a draft board.