On paper, this has not been a terribly impressive season for Bradley Beal
, widely considered one of the top freshmen prospects in college basketball.
He hasn't been a very prolific (17 points per-40) or efficient (50% EFG%) scorer, mainly due to his struggles shooting the ball from beyond the arc.
Nevertheless, Beal's draft stock has remained steady all season, as he occasionally shows flashes of being able to make plays that only elite level talents can, but just not consistently yet.
Standing somewhere between 6-4 and 6-5, Beal has decent size for a NBA shooting guard, to go along with a solid frame and average length. While not possessing rim-rocking explosiveness, he's an extremely smooth and fluid athlete with excellent mobility.
Despite being considered one of the best shooters in his high school class, Beal has struggled to hit jumpers consistently all season. Nearly half of his field goal attempts have come from 3-point range, but he's able to connect on just 33% of them thus far. Looking at his mechanics, there's very little not to like about his shooting form, as he gets great elevation, possesses a consistent release point, shows excellent follow-through, and has range that extends well beyond the college 3-point line.
Despite the inconsistent results, it's difficult not to see Beal developing into a very good NBA 3-point shooter in time, especially considering his reportedly stellar work ethic and the fact that this has always been the strongest part of his game. He will need to confirm that in private NBA workouts, but his 33% accuracy rate is likely the lowest percentage he'll shoot his entire career from the 3-point line.
While his perimeter shooting has been a disappointment, Beal's ball-handling and playmaking skills appear to have improved significantly over the past year or so. Extremely effective in transition, Beal can create for himself and others in smooth and effortless fashion off the dribble with his ability to change speeds and put the ball on the floor with either hand.
While able to get all the way to the rim fairly consistently, Beal still needs to improve on finishing more effectively around the basket, as he lacks a degree of strength and explosiveness in traffic at this stage. He does get to the free throw line at a solid rate to compensate, and makes 78% of his attempts once there.
Beal is generally a good decision maker, showing excellent maturity making the extra pass to an open shooter on the perimeter or feeding his big men inside the post, never looking rushed or flustered, which is impressive considering his age and lack of experience. He's obviously earned the trust of his coaching staff, as he leads the team in minutes played, despite being surrounded by a host of guards who are significantly older than him.
Defensively, Beal can be inconsistent at times like his entire Florida squad -- they rank 3rd in the NCAA in offensive efficiency but just 119th on defenseand he doesn't have great size or length for his position. With that said, with his terrific timing, fundamentals, smarts, and all-around approach to the game, there's no reason he can't become a solid piece on this end as he gets stronger and gains experience. He already does an excellent job on the defensive glass, in the passing lanes, and even blocking shots on occasion, showing very nice anticipation skills.
Looking forward, Beal obviously has a very bright future ahead of him, as he already shows excellent fundamentals, a versatile skill-set, a high basketball IQ, and great maturity, despite the fact that he doesn't turn 19 till the day of the 2012 draft. While not oozing with upside, he gets rave reviews from every coach he's worked with, and should continue to improve on his all-around polish in time, making him a relatively low-risk high-reward type prospect to pick in the mid to late part of the lottery.