After Bradley Beal’s 17.1 ppg sophomore campaign, one might have expected the 6-5 shooting guard to crack the top 25 by the time the St. Lunatic’s fourth season rolled around.

But his scoring dipped to 15.3 in Year 3, and production in the other major categories remained stagnant. Sure, Beal helped the Wiz win a couple more games, but he again failed to stay healthy and continued to struggle off the dribble.

But that’s where the knocks on Dolla Dolla Beal come to an end. Fans and pundits often view Year 3 as the year for high draft picks to break out into fully fledged stars (see Derrick Rose ’10-11, Anthony Davis ’14-15).

In this writer’s opinion, Iverson year is simply an arbitrary career marker—players come along at different speeds. In Beal’s case, dude is still only 22 years old, and though he wasn’t an All-Star this past season, the League’s sixth best 2-guard is primed for a helluva 2015-16—especially with restricted free agency looming next offseason.

Beal is unlikely to reach an agreement with Washington before the season starts, but he could sign a max deal next summer if he shores up a few holes in his game.

CSN Washington dug up an important statistic: in 63 games last season, Beal shot 41.2 percent (87-211) of three-balls in catch-and-shoot situations. When Beal dribbled even one time before releasing his silky J, that rate dropped to 27.3 percent (3-11). And when putting the ball on the floor 1-3 times, Beal’s percentage was just as atrocious at 28.9 (11-38).

It’s promising to see that Beal paid special attention to his off-the-dribble game over the summer. In the above video from the NBA, Beal’s handle looks lower and tighter than ever before. If that aspect of his game is truly improved, Washington’s late-game woes—which were masked at times in the Playoffs by Paul Pierce’s heroics—might just be solved.

DC exited the 2015 postseason in heartbreak fashion, falling to Atlanta in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semis when Pierce’s buzzer three to send the game to OT was negated. The media room at Verizon Center felt like a morgue. “It’s probably every synonym of ‘sad’ you can think of,” Beal said in his post-game presser.

What’s not sad are Beal’s Playoff averages of 23.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists over 10 games. What’s not sad is the possibility of playing in the same backcourt as John Wall for the next decade. What’s not sad is the state of basketball in the nation’s capital after a decade full of Peter John Ramoses, locker room disasters and league-leading appearances on Shaqtin’ A Fool.

Beal possesses arguably the best shooting form in the L after future Hall of Famers Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry. His quick release and underrated rim-attacking ability are qualities that bring to mind Bucks-era Ray Allen (and if you don’t believe me, check Ray Ray’s third-year stats…they’re nearly identical, and in fact, Beal shot a better clip from beyond the arc).

For the Show Me State native to crack the top 25 overall and top-5, maybe even top-3 shooting guards, he’ll have to—err—show us more. Beal has to show us he can play like he did in the Playoffs for a full 82 games. And while you’re at it, Brad, why don’t you go ahead and show us more highlights like this one:

42_beal_chart

SLAM Top 50 Players 2015
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Rajon Rondo Kings PG 14
49 Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks SF 9
48 Rudy Gobert Jazz C 9
47 Al Jefferson Hornets C 8
46 DeMar DeRozan Raptors SG 7
45 Goran Dragic Heat PG 13
44 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 11
43 Jeff Teague Hawks PG 12
42 Bradley Beal Wizards SG 6



Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.