WASHINGTON – When Bradley Beal suffered a wrist fracture this preseason, it was a devastating blow to the team.
Washington Wizards fans had dreamed of a backcourt of John Wall, Beal and Paul Pierce, but the team didn’t see that until Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, fans had seen shooting guard Garrett Temple fill the void, and while he’s been serviceable with 8.4 points per game, he is simply not the scoring threat that Beal is.
Now, Beal is back.
Beal came off the bench in his return, with Temple starting. Playing 26 minutes, Beal led the team with 21 points. But the Wizards lost.
How big of an improvement is Beal over Temple and how much better will the Wizards be with Beal in the lineup?
Let’s look at some numbers.
One of the most important statistics in measuring the value of a player is the Player Efficiency Rating (PER). PER measures a player’s productivity level per minute, both on offense and defense.
Basically, it is a complicated formula that takes positive and negative contributions a player makes on both offense and defense. The score is adjusted for total time, so it is easy to compare a player like Beal, who tends to play a lot more, to a guy like Temple, who typically plays less.
It’s fairly accurate in determining just how good a player is. Guys like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are consistently at the top.
The average PER score for a NBA player is 15, so anything above or below is an indicator of how well a player performs consistently.
It’s a little surprising that Beal’s PER score is below 15. But keep in mind that Beal hasn’t even come close to his prime. He’s just entering his third season in the league, and he is still just 21.
Now, we can look at the win shares. Again, this is calculated with a very complicated formula. More simply, it is a general estimate of how many wins a player can add to his team.
It can be broken up into both offense and defense. So, we can look at how many wins can be credited to a player’s offensive game, and how many can be credited to his defensive game.
One final individual statistic that we can use to compare Beal to Temple is the true shooting percentage of each player.
True shooting percentage takes into account the fact that three pointers are far more difficult to take than two pointers. True shooting percentage also includes free throw percentages, and instead of taking a percentage from the total field goal attempts, it takes into account the total points scored. It’s a far more accurate way of determining how good a player truly is at shooting the ball.
On top of that, Beal shoots well from the three point arc. Last season, Beal was third on the team in three point attempts per game, trailing only Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. However, Ariza is no longer with the team, and Webster is still injured with a herniated disk. That means that Beal is likely to become the team’s go to three point shooter, something the Wizards definitely need. They currently rank fourth to last in the league in three point attempts, with just 14.6 on average.
But one could argue that the team was already playing pretty well without Beal. The starting five for the Wizards has been Wall, Temple, Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat, and the Wizards have won seven of their nine games. Can the team work well with Beal as opposed to Temple?
One way to look at it is through specific lineup data. We can look at each of those players and see how well they played with Beal (with the exception of Pierce, because he wasn’t a part of the Wizards last year).
The closest thing we can do is look at how the combination of Wall, Beal, Nene and Gortat played with another player. The players who played the most with Wall, Beal, Nene and Gortat last season were Ariza and Webster. Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene and Gortat played a total of 487:04 minutes together last year in the regular season. When together, they outscored their opponents by 9.3 points on average. The combination of Wall, Beal, Webster, Nene and Gortat played 142:45 minutes together last year. That combination outscored opponents by 10.3 points per game.
And how does Pierce fit into that equation? Well, for starters, Pierce’s 15.2 PER rating this season is already comparable to Ariza’s 15.8 last season, and better than Webster’s 11.5. So, it’s safe to say there is not too much of a difference when you replace Ariza and Webster with Pierce. Plus, you have to factor in that Pierce is a veteran presence and a proven winner.
While the Wizards lost the first game in Beal’s return, the statistics suggest that may not happen that often.