San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich seems to be having the time of his life right now with the current pool of talent he is working with to prepare USA Basketball for the Tokyo Olympics. Pop was a coach who started as defensive-minded and focused very much on playing through the big man. Nevertheless, Pop has masterfully evolved his coaching style into one that is in tune with the offensive pace and space of today’s game. Pop will get the chance to implement his offensive principles to a team with the likes of Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard, and Bradley Beal, four of the game’s most prolific scorers.
We know that Durant and Tatum are great due to a unique combination of guard skills, length, and athleticism. Lillard is a small guard that can shoot from anywhere and get to the rim against anyone, but despite being neck-and-neck with Steph Curry for this year’s scoring title, it’s hard to pinpoint the one thing that makes Beal the elite scorer that he is. Fred Katz reported that Pop provided quite an interesting take on what impressed him most about the Wizard Guard’s game.
Pop called out Beal’s movement as what he liked the most about the young man from the University of Florida. For much of his career, Brad has had to play without John Wall due to the injury history of the latter, forcing him to spend much time as the primary shot creator for a struggling Wizards team. With the addition of Russel Westbrook this year, it seems as if Beal has been able to get his shots through a multitude of ways, and both Beal and Westbrook would support that hunch. Pop also called out a quality that is not generally associated with Brad.
Gregg Popovich says after Team USA practice that the thing he likes most about Bradley Beal’s game is, “his movement.” Also adds he thought Beal was “wirey” and thin but now that he sees him here, he thinks he was wrong. “He’s thick,” he said.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) July 7, 2021
Beal is listed as 6’3 tall, weighing in at 207 lbs which is not particularly big for a two-guard, especially when guys like James Harden and Russel Westbrook are in the league. However, Beal has a 6’8 wingspan, which means that he can come across as very lean with a wingspan significantly longer than his height but still not the kind of length that would suggest an advantage over defenders of similar size.
With Pop’s comments, it all starts to make sense now. How can a guy who is 6’3 and not freakishly athletic average over 30 points against teams that are hell-bent on stopping him? For Brad, it is a unique mix of his knowledge of angles, constant movement with purpose and strength that allows him to do so. In many ways, this is the same formula that Steph Curry uses to dominate the league, sending defensive schemes into disarray. Just like Curry, Brad’s skill set makes him somewhat unpredictable, so there should no longer be any wonder as to how he and Steph led the NBA in scoring last year.
The opportunity for Brad to harness this talent with USA Basketball and perhaps elevate his play through the guidance of Pop in the heat of battle that international basketball can only do wonders for Beal’s game. The Wizards, or whichever team he ends up playing for should Washington decide to go into a rebuild, will be fun for fans to watch and a nightmare for opponents to play against next season.
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