Before I dive into this topic, I want to let this be known early on. This is simply a theory on Beal’s three point shooting. What I am about to say is purely an educated guess. I have never observed a training session Bradley Beal participated in. My theory is based on what I have seen from the progression Bradley Beal has gone through as a player over the last 9 years. So if you disagree with me, don’t go crazy.
Now back to the topic.
If you compare game footage of Beal from 2014 to game footage of Beal from 2021, it’s like you are watching two completely different players. You might say “duh it’s a seven year difference. Of course his game will look a little different”. Sure a player is going to make strides in their game during a seven year period. But for the most part, they are still the same type of player. Steph Curry in 2022 still resembles the Steph Curry from 2013. Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2022 still resembles the Giannis Antetokounmpo from 2016.
Having your game change that drastically (in Beal’s case) takes a lot hard work. Hard work that Beal puts in during the off season year after year.
I think this drastic shift in the evolution of Bradley Beal’s game is why we have seen a decline in his three point shooting. The percentage hasn’t been too terrible. But Beal has not shot 40% from beyond the arc since 2017. He has not shot above 36% from beyond the arc since 2018. This season, his three point percentage has dropped to 30 %.
The first part of the theory
The improvements Beal has made in his game year after year tells me that, whatever skills he wants to improve on, he really focuses on that skill. I mean really focuses on that skill. Perhaps to the detriment of the other skills he already has. Since Beal was already a great shooter, perhaps he and his trainer Drew Hanlen decided that there wasn’t a need to focus on his shot as much. Of course Beal still got up shots during the off season. It would be silly not to do so. But the focus shifted more towards other skills. This approach was successful as Beal’s game improved and his three point percentage didn’t drop for a period of time.
But from the 2018-2019 season and beyond, Wizards fans saw a gradual decline in his three point shot. The percentage looked ok on paper. But with the eye test, the decline in three point shooting was noticeable, as Beal started to miss more open threes than usual. From 2019 to 2021, Beal added a number of skills to his game. The ability to draw fouls, a variety of new finishes around the basket, shifty crossovers, and the ability to shoot from further out. From the eye test , Beal also appears to be more athletic. His first step looks quicker, and his vertical jump looks improved.
A lot of skills added in a short period of time tells me that Beal really focused on these skills. Since Beal was always a good shooter perhaps he said to himself “my strengths will always be there, so I don’t have to worry about them”.
The second part of the theory
Beal’s jumper looks different now compared to what it used to look like earlier in his career. I think this change is due to the fact that he wanted to extend his range. If you have ever tried to shoot a basketball from beyond the three point line, the mechanics you use on that shot is a little different from the mechanics you use on a regular three point shot or mid range shot.
Although his three point percentage has declined over the past couple seasons, Beal is now able to shoot from beyond the three point line with little effort. But even with his new shot, he still needs a lot of reps with it in order for the shot to be as accurate as his old three point shot. Since he is really focusing on the other skills he is trying to add, maybe he’s not able to get enough reps with this new shot.
Extending your range and working on your shot might seem like the same thing. But they can be two different scenarios. Working on your shot is more of getting up enough reps in order to maintain or improve your accuracy. Extending your range means making slight adjustments to your shot in order to shoot from further distance.
Video comparison of Beal’s three point shot
The two clips below does a good job of showing the changes in Beal’s three point shot. In the first clip from the 2014 three point contest, Beal has a higher set point on his shot. In the second clip from 2021, Beal has a lower set point. A lower set point allows a player to shoot from further out. In 2014, Beal shot 40.2 % from beyond the arc with a higher release point. This also explains why his mid range shot is still accurate. Players shoot with a higher release point from mid range in order to elevate over defenders. Beal’s mid range shot is similar to his old three point shot, and I think that’s why his mid range shot is still automatic.
As you can see from the 2021 clip, Beal is able to shoot from a great distance with very little effort. But even if your new shot is cash, you still need a ton of reps for the shot to be as automatic in games as your old shot.
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