It almost feels like I’ve written this type of piece before, mostly because I probably have. The name Bradley Beal continues to strike conversations year after year, and the Miami Heat continue to be the linked team for a multitude of reasons.
But when addressing past rumors and situations where Beal and the Heat was potentially a possibility, I don’t think it’s crazy to say that it’s most realistic this time around.
On the Heat’s side, they need an experienced 3 level scorer of his caliber and currently have the assets to acquire him. On Beal’s side, he has the opportunity to relocate to Miami with known acquaintances Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, yet it all comes down to him making that decision.
Could he opt back into his deal, meaning a trade is probably looming? Could he opt out, restructure his deal, and continue to stay loyal to Washington? Both are possible outcomes, but much like I always say, this piece isn’t for that type of speculation.
This is about the X’s and O’s of how things would actually translate from a certain talent to a specific team. So let’s just hop right into it…
The Obvious Scoring Talent and Mid-Range Excellence
Step 1: Pure Isolation Dominance
When addressing Beal’s game, the starting point just has to be the pure shot creation and one-on-one game that he’s shown over time. He really is the linked definition of a 3 level scorer.
Even after having a slightly down shooting year from deep, there’s complete understanding of what he can do as a 3 point shooter off the dribble. If they send two, he can still find ways to hit slots and make plays.
The bread and butter of his game is no doubt the mid-range, though. Looking at some of the clips above, his mid-range game is different than most of the league’s maestro’s in that area.
That’s simply because most inside the arc pull-up shooters operate primarily off screens, since it’s easy to flow into that coveted pull-up against drop bigs. Just think about Chris Paul’s mid-range excellence as he snakes around screens into his comfortable spots.
Now relating that to Bradley Beal, he has an inevitable dribble package that can get him open when going one-on-one, just by thoroughly stopping on a dime, stepping back, or shooting over the top. As seen in those clips, even PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo had a tough time keeping up with all of his tricks.
Beal had an effective field goal % of 47.1% in isolation this past year, and for some context, Tyler Herro’s mark was 35.7%. That’s probably the one major difference when comparing a growing talent and a current talent. The ability to make plays by yourself against some of the league’s best defenders.
Even with an awkward scoring season for himself this past year compared to his usual numbers, he still shot 46% on mid-range pull-ups, which is totally aligned with some of his best scoring seasons.
The last of the 3 levels is scoring at the rim, and that could be one of Beal’s most underrated elements. We immediately think about his ability to be a perimeter player, but his driving game just sneaks under the radar, while it’s blaring on opposing scouting reports on a nightly basis.
He attempted 8.3 field goals this past season off drives, which ranked as the 4th highest in the league, and still shot 47% from the field in those spots. He’s just simply elite in a lot of areas, and can be plugged into so many different scenarios offensively.
One of those being off-ball, which I will touch on extensively later in this piece. The other one being a chain reaction of on-ball shifting.
Step 2: Elite Screen Navigation
Being able to dominate in isolation is clearly needed when talking about the things this Heat team needs, but there’s still “keeping the main thing the main thing.” By that I mean this team still prides themselves on a heavy dose of on-ball screening, dribble hand-offs, and pick and rolls.
Yet he’s equally as talented in that department.
There are good pick and roll players, and then there are experienced, pro level pick and roll players. When watching the single clip above, you would quickly find out that Beal is the latter.
Comes off the screen, gives Bogdanovic the bump from behind, and still keeps a slow paced dribble alive as he snakes inside for a paint touch. He gets to the back of his rolling big, and immediately flows into shooting motion for the floater.
That type of control is just a different layer of offensive savant.
Much like I discussed in my latest Donovan Mitchell piece, the goal will be to take as much pressure off Jimmy Butler in the regular season as possible. Give Beal the keys during many of those pockets, instead of running so many of the team’s vets into the ground.
And well, this pure mix of an isolation bag and screen navigation is the exact type of player that can be trusted to get your team to a certain checkpoint.
This is a guy that just averaged 31 points per game for two straight seasons prior to this past year. It’s game changing for a coach like Erik Spoelstra to incorporate so many new wrinkles to the offense.
The Underrated Passing Element
If you followed this Heat season rather closely, just think back to November 20th. The Heat just beat the Wizards at home on the 18th, but took a flight right up to Washington to meet them again two days later.
The Heat were dominating that game as well, but Washington stormed back. The game got close, the Heat’s defense was focused on one player and one player only, and that one player made Miami pay for that.
Heat are up 96 to 93 with 2 minutes left and Wizards have ball. Caldwell Pope is being guarded by Bam, yet slips the screen for Beal to the right wing. Beal now has both Bam and Tucker standing in front of him as the focus was all eyes on him.
Swing to Pope. Tie game.
Fast forward to the next offensive possession, Beal begins to take Herro one-on-one on the left wing. Tucker knowing what’s about to happen, shades all the way over to the top of the key for maximum help. Beal then lobs it over the top to Dinwiddie on the right wing who was supposed to be guarded by Tucker, and he hits the triple to eventually beat Miami in an impressive comeback.
Why did I go through this entire dialogue from a random regular season game in November? Well, all that to say Beal’s passing has not only improved this past season, but he showcased it in big moments, which is intriguing to any contending team out there.
If you like base stats, Beal went from averaging 4.4 assists last year to 6.6 this season. Some of that has to do with a change in usage and role, while adding in the fact he played less games, but it’s still another proposition to a Heat offense that could use that type of play-making scorer.
Kyle Lowry had the ability to feed Bam on the roll quite a lot this season, but there wasn’t enough scoring pressure in those reps to make the combo elite.
Butler provoded more than enough scoring pressure in those PnR sets with Bam, yet the ratio of feeding him on the roll wasn’t a great number.
Now add in a guy like Beal who can clearly score out of the pick and roll, while also being able to feed Adebayo frequently following a screen. That’s how Bam Adebayo’s offensive game gets elevated.
Just look at the late season success of the Herro-Adebayo PnR. Herro was peaking as a downhill scoring threat, and most of all he was confident while only seeing single coverage. For the first two games of the 76ers series, neither one of them could be stopped, until adjustments were made.
The idea would be to create a similar formula without the worry of their water being turned off, since it’s just harder to do so against a guy like Beal.
Excelling in Miami’s Movement Offense
So to save the best for last, this is why I believe Beal is the best option of the bunch when discussing guys like Mitchell and Zach LaVine. (Not that the Heat can choose the “best option,” but I guess we can still speculate that.)
After discussing all of the things that Beal is as a player, the main reason he fits the Heat’s offense best is because he’s equally as effective as an off the ball threat.
No, this doesn’t mean standing in the corner while Butler creates since he can hit the spot-up triple. It actually means that he can be freed up off the ball to flow into his best looks.
It’s hard to do this as a one-man show in Washington since all the focus is on him even if he doesn’t possess the ball at a given time. Yet we have seen some flashes from him over time that could be expanded upon.
How can it be expanded? Insert him into a nonstop movement offense next to a pure point guard (if the deal can be made without including him), a star powered Butler, elite screeners like Adebayo and Tucker, plus some level of shooting on the weak-side.
For some examples, let’s start with the first clip above. Beal swings the ball to the left wing and clears. The ball finds the big in the middle of the floor, just to set up Chicago action, which is just a weak-side pin-down into a dribble hand-off.
Beal flies off the pin-down and receives the DHO from Gafford, knocking down the pull-up three from the top of the key. We can watch highlight crossovers and crafty finishes from him all day, but this is the type of stuff that makes it effective in theory. This is the stuff that the Heat organization would be eyeing.
Fast forward to the second clip above, it seems as if we could be seeing a similar thing. Beal gets off the ball, looking to flow into the weak-side as a relocation point. Instead, he reverses direction back to the strong-side corner with Gafford ready for the pin-down. The angle of his cut forces his defender to fly up to the wing, giving him an open corner three off the catch.
That’s exactly the Heat’s offense. Just re-watch that imagining Bam as the passer, Tucker as the hammer screener, and well, Beal as the movement shooter. This is what I mean when I say Spoelstra can add these extra wrinkles when bringing in a player of this caliber.
Once again, things will have to break just right for this Beal thing to be a real possibility, since it comes down to him opting in and saying his preferred destination is Miami. Trade packages would be rumored, the timing of things would be important.
But there’s no reason not to talk about fit this time of year, and even though star players can fit in any system, it’s pretty evident that Beal fits Miami more than many of the guys in social media jersey swaps.
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