Remember when the Wizards were chronic underachievers because John Wall and Bradley Beal couldn’t get along? Neither do I, because that narrative wasn’t true. While Washington’s star-studded backcourt probably suffered from a lack of chemistry, they also suffered from Beal not actually being that good.

To be sure, the 23-year-old was a solid NBA guard, but the comparisons to Ray Allen made many people, including the Wizards front office, think he was Ray Allen. To date, Beal has posted sub-star career numbers of 17.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game. On defense, he’s never saved more points than he’s leaked, per NBA Math. Basketball-Reference’s similarity score compared Beal’s first four seasons to those of Marcus Thornton and Courtney Lee, not exactly marquee names.

So when Washington offered a 5 year, $127 million deal to Beal last summer, it wasn’t even because he was good on paper. If by “paper,” we mean the stat sheet, Beal was pretty average. GM Ernie Grunfeld shelled out max dollars because Beal was good in theory: A strong athlete with good size, an exquisite shooting stroke, and a tireless work ethic.

Beal has repaid Grunfeld already. He’s averaging 22.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, both career highs, while posting a blistering .593 true shooting percentage. Meanwhile, his advanced stats – things like box plus-minus, PER, and win shares – are currently shattering his career numbers. More importantly, Washington is 31-21 and in third place in the East. Beal and the Wiz are suddenly good on paper, not to mention in real life. Here are three key changes:
Shot Selection

We’re now at the point when “settling for threes” is something players need to do more often. Beal is a fantastic shooter. Of the 76 players who attempted more than one pull-up three per game last season, Beal shot the 12th best percentage. In catch and shoot opportunities, meanwhile, he canned a reliable 39.4% of his tries, which was actually worse than in previous years.

It’s a mystery, then, why only about 30% of Beal’s field goal attempts were three-pointers before this season. For reference, 43.3% of Klay Thompson’s career shot attempts have come from beyond the arc. This year, Beal has reached Thompson territory, launching 7.2 threes per game and shooting the lights out.