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Becoming Beekman | The Weekend Warrior
FEATURING: Virginia's Junior Guard, Reece Beekman
This draft class has proven to be one of a ton of nuance already. Much has been made with the variability of the depth of it and the strength of certain groups. Certain prospects have underperformed, while others have leapt upward to take vacant rankings. Such is the life of a draft class in mid-January. While the volatility can easily grab our attention, the subtleness that some prospects exhibit can kind of sneak up on the draft community.
Reece Beekman isn’t an unknown by any means. Draft evaluators have been aware of him throughout the season. No Ceilings’ Corey Tulaba has done a lot of work for our team to keep tabs on the temperature prospects give off to “the consensus”. The IPOs—which included 40 prospects to start the season—did not include Reece. The second edition of the Stock update included 50 players, where Beekman was placed at 47. When this dropped in early January, ESPN has him at 32. Bleacher Report ranked him at 49. Tankathon did not list him—Basketball News didn’t either. SI had him at 39 and the Athletic at 63. At No Ceilings, we ranked him at 54. In two Mock Drafts that were released on January 12th, SI mocked Reece to Philadelphia at 33, while the Athletic mocked him at 46 to Cleveland.
This goes to show that, while Beekman isn’t a sleeper; he seems to have had a steady, gradual ascent. But, why?
As to why Beekman didn’t start the season off being ranked highly, it could have been the fact that he was coming into his third season. Even now, Marcus Sasser, Kris Murray, Colby Jones, and Terrence Shannon Jr. were the only players with three seasons or greater who were valued in the first round in the latest Stock Market update. There’s not a lot of love for the upperclassmen among the consensus, so that figures to be one of the main factors. On top of that (and we’ll get into this later), Reece shot 24.3% and 33.8% from deep in his first two seasons, respectively. Guards that are perceived to be non-shooters have an enormous mountain to climb if they are going to have draft capital expended upon them—especially if they are in the neighborhood of being 6’3”.
If you consider what Reece Beekman is doing this season, it’s kind of unprecedented. If you want to run a BartTorvik query as to who has done the following, you’ll only find Reece Beekman in the entire database that has done the following:
Minutes Percentage- 65% or more
BPM- 7 or more
Offensive Rating- 110 or more
Usage Percentage- 20% or more
True Shooting Percentage- 55% or more
Offensive Rebounding Percentage- 1% or more
Defensive Rebounding Percentage- 10% or more
Assist Percentage- 30% or more
Turnover Percentage- 20% or less
Blocks Percentage- 2% or more
Steals Percentage- 3% or more
Free-Throw Rate- 40% or more
Three-Point Percentage- 40% or more
You can see that these are unique clarifiers or obscure numbers to try and set Reece apart. The numbers, by and large, were rounded cleanly to try and cast a wider net to see how Beekman stacks up. If you were to omit the three-point percentage requirement, the database opens up to show that Delon Wright and John Konchar are comparable players to Reece. Take away the turnover percentage, and Jeremy Lin and Kyle Anderson join this group of three players. Lower the block percentage to 1%, and you’ll see Marcus Smart and Shabazz Napier will show up. You can finagle the numbers to see more players, but it’s quite interesting that you have to manipulate the numbers to see more NBA players in Beekman’s company vice him meeting their stats.
Nevertheless, Beekman is proving to be a prospect that refuses to be ignored. His Virginia Cavaliers also possess a roster that has certain player types that allow evaluators to envision what his role could look like at the next level. We’ll dive into both sides of the ball for Reece and see how he fares as an NBA-level player.
Perhaps what makes Beekman appealing to an NBA team above anything else, is the same thing that made some of the aforementioned players appealing to their NBA teams: the decision-making. Reece doesn’t wow fans with feats of athletic achievements, although he does have nice physical tools. Beekman stands out among his class due to his intangibles and processing on both ends of the floor.
We can go in various directions on offense with his processing, but we’ll start with his playmaking.
Wright, Konchar, Lin, Anderson—all of those players proved to be excellent offensive problem solvers in college and, in their own right and roles, in the NBA. A huge part of solving problems offensively is leveraging the advantages that are created into clean shots. Those shots could be for themselves or others. Boasting an assist percentage of 34.8% with a turnover percentage of 18.6% has yielded an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.7. That’s a great indicator of how Reece is seeing the game.
Beekman is averaging 5.0 APG on the season so far. Out of his 14 games played, there have only been five games in which he didn’t log five or more assists—only two games with less than three.
Synergy grades Reece Beekman to be at the 50th percentile (Average) in terms of playing as the pick-and-roll ball-handler. If you look at the pick-and-roll numbers more closely, he grades in the 55th percentile (Good) including passes, and in the 62nd percentile (Good) when the defense commits to him on drives. This speaks to his processing as a playmaker—to his ability to make intelligent decisions by getting his teammates involved. I don’t believe that Beekman has done enough to make teams believe that he’ll ever be a primary initiator, but on the weakside or on second units, Reece figures to have enough on-the-ball equity to keep the defense guessing.
This play encapsulates that exact point. We start off with Kihei Clark (#0) running the pick-and-roll with big man, Kadin Shedrick (#21). The action has Clark running to the left, with Reece stationed in the right corner. Shedrick goes into a handoff set with Beekman. Michigan does a good job of getting Clark to stop his drive, pick up his dribble, and pass to Shedrick. Shedrick screens Beekman’s defender, Jett Howard (#13), while Hunter Dickinson (#1) gets into a drop position. Shedrick screens off Howard very well, as he is now behind him without the chance to recover. As Reece drives, he sees Dickinson in a non-committal position between himself and Shedrick. Reece hits Shedrick with a crisp bounce pass for a finish over Dickinson.
This is a nice example of Beekman playing within himself and prodding the defense for what is available to him.
Another example of Reece running the second action within the offense, and it leading to more points. Clark and Jayden Gardner (#1) run the initial pick-and-roll action on this play. Clark gets past the screen and finds our guy at the top of the key. Shedrick gets into position to screen immediately. Adam Flagler (#10) stays attached to Reece over the screen, and Flo Thamba (#0) goes to cut off the drive—leaving Shedrick open to pop to just above the free-throw line. Shedrick nails the jumper and shows off a little versatility. Beekman shows off the capability to make plays off of timing and feel.
Isaac McKneely (#11) starts off this possession with the ball and finds our guy on the left wing. What’s interesting about this set is that Virginia is overloaded on the left side. With Baylor in man-to-man coverage, Beekman engages with Shedrick in the pick-and-roll. LJ Cryer (#4) and Thamba are automatically involved in this action defensively, as Beekman and Shedrick are their men, respectively. The pick-and-roll also attracts the attention of Flager, who is supposed to be following Armaan Franklin (#4). Baylor walls off Beekman with three defenders. What’s interesting about this is Shedrick is open on the dive with the 6’3” Flager as the last line of defense against him. With Flager now stuck, Franklin cuts baseline to the right corner. The easiest and most obvious pass is to Shedrick, but Beekman threads in a beautiful ball to Franklin for a three.
To start off this next clip, we see the Clark/Shedrick tandem at it again. Houston really puts on the pressure to Clark, causing him to hit Shedrick at the top of the key. Shedrick’s man, Reggie Chaney (#32), now has to hustle to recover to Shedrick. No because he’s a deep threat, but because he goes into a Pick and Roll action with Reece. By virtue of gunning hard from the left side of the court, and the pick-and-roll action directing Beekman to go from right to left; Chaney is not afforded the opportunity to get set. Chaney opts to stay with Beekman, as Houston now has two defenders on him. Chaney gets tall and drops to his man in order to negate the overhead dime. This gives Reece a lane to attack, with Marcus Sasser (#0) having to recover to stop the drive. With Sasser forced to Reece’s right, Reece drives to the lane. This forces Chaney to come back up to him, which leaves Shedrick open for the slick, dump-off assist. Beekman leveraged his pressure to create an efficient shot—the most efficient shot—for Kadin Shedrick.
The shooting is something that has taken a turn for Beekman during his three seasons at Virginia. As a freshman, he shot 24.3% from deep and 75.8% from the free throw line. The next season he shot 33.8% and 76.1%, respectively. In both previous seasons, the three-ball was on less than two attempts per game. He also averaged 1.3 attempts from the charity stripe in each of those years. This season, Reece is shooting 47.1% from the three-point line on 2.4 attempts per game. He’s also shooting three attempts from the free throw line on 81.0% shooting. The shot has and needed to improve this season, with a slight uptick in volume.
I would venture to guess that this was the skill that scouts and evaluators needed to see improvement in before they would believe in his draftability.
In 14 games played, Beekman has four games in which he did not make a three-pointer (in one of those games he didn’t even attempt one). From the free-throw line, he’s only had three games in which he didn’t make a free throw (two contests without an attempt, and one game in which he was 0/1).
First, I want to go over the shot before we dive into this play in particular. When Beekman catches the ball, more times than not he’ll bring the ball pretty low—around waist level—before he comes up for the release. On his base, I feel like he does a good job of getting a good foundation, but brings his knees too close together. I feel like this sort of negates the stability that his foot spacing offers. He does a good job of keeping the ball center and limiting the total movement of his upper body. The part that concerns me is where the top of his release takes place. The ball stops at about brow level and has a pushing motion. This shooting hand and support hand seem to be on separate pages as well.
I just don’t know if it translates to extended range at a higher level of competition. It seems like it could be easily blocked, and it could take too long to get off—which would make the effectiveness of it stunted. Here’s an example of how that additional pressure could complicate the long shot.
With all of that being said, it’s going in at a higher clip than it has in his collegiate career—both in terms of efficiency and volume.
With Beekman likely to be the one being set up at the next level, being a catch-and-shoot threat is a must. In this play against Baylor, we have Reece bringing the ball up the floor for Virginia. This play is fairly simple. Beekman kicks the ball to Franklin, with Franklin looking to apply pressure to the rim. Caleb Lohner (#33) funnels Franklin to the baseline and into the path of Thamba. Beekman fills the void on the left wing that was created by Franklin’s drive. His shot prep is pretty, as he presents a clear line of sight for Franklin, as he turns around to see his wide-open teammate. With no one around to challenge his shot, Beekman gets into his motion and nets in three easy points.
Despite how I have evaluated Beekman’s mechanics, Synergy has graded him out to be in the 95th Percentile (Excellent) on catch-and-shoot opportunities—in the 100th Percentile (Excellent) when guarded. His value as a shooter comes when he’s the beneficiary of someone else getting him a look, vice his own self-creation. We see that here against Michigan.
Beekman might be able to make a good living on plays just like this. The Clark/Shedrick duo is at the Pick and Roll again, with Clark able to put significant pressure on the rim. With the defense collapsing to stop the layup, Clark is able to go from his shot to a corner kickout directly into Beekman’s shooting pocket. Beekman is able to make the defense pay by leaving him all alone. Possessions like this one figures into how Synergy grades him in the 93rd Percentile (Excellent) on long shot distances.
Reece’s bag inside the three-point line can certainly be a mixed one. On one possession, Beekman can shield off the defender, make adjustments, and convert a difficult look. The next, he can drive into the defense and force a bad look with his inside hand. His handle isn’t uber-dynamic. He doesn’t possess the best lean, bend, or wiggle with his handle. With straight-line drives being his main approach of applying pressure, the results often vary.
Synergy grades him out to be in the 22nd Percentile (Below Average) from the short (within 17 feet) shot distance range. Another interesting note: While Beekman has improved as a shooter from the three-point line and free throw line, he has decreased his two-pointer effectiveness—going from 48.7% on his twos last year, to 43.3% this year. This would be his lowest two-point percentage of his collegiate career should this pace continue. That itself could be an aberration, as one could talk themself into believing he could bring that number back up.
It would be nice if every play that Reece attacks on could go this way. In all seriousness, there are possessions in which Beekman can put real pressure on the rim. This is one. The ball starts with Gardner making a simple pass to Reece. Joey Baker (#15) comes out to defend him. Gardner steps up to screen Baker, to which Beekman goes to his left and attacks the lane. Gardner’s man, Jace Howard (#25) keeps his back to the ball handler and leaves an open lane for Beekman to take advantage of. Reece turns the corner around Baker and rises up for one of his four dunks on the season. One example of how Beekman can make unsuspecting defenses pay with his driving ability.
North Carolina’s Leaky Black (#1) is one of the best defenders in college basketball, and also serves as an example of the types of players Beekman could be expected to go up against at the next level. Ben Vander Plas (#5) looked to have an open three but Jalen Washington (#13) did a nice job of closing out. With Ben’s DHO, Reece winds up with the ball across from Black. Our guy drives down the lane and looks to finish with his left, but the amount of length and pressure proves to be too much for Reece to overcome. These types of looks have proved to be somewhat of a challenge for Beekman, and could be something that he might struggle with in the NBA.
Beekman is just as impactful on the defensive side of the ball as he is on the offensive end. Typically, he’ll take on the more difficult backcourt assignment for the Cavaliers. This is an aspect of his game that could help him land a significant role should that continue. There are concerns about him, in terms of physicality, as to how impactful he can be on that end. He’s listed at 6’3, which is almost a generic size for a guard. Even at this height, he could be a target to be switched on. Anything smaller and those concerns only magnify. On top of his height and length, he is listed at about 170 lbs. His ability to hold up may come into question.
But, those are based on the next step. What he’s done so far this season is pretty spectacular. Over his three-season collegiate career, 1.2 SPG is the fewest he’s averaged. Last year he averaged 2.1 SPG, and this year he’s averaging 1.6. For his size, he contests shots very well. He’s averaging 0.5 BPG, coming off of the 0.7 he averaged last season. His block percentage is at 2.1 this season, while his steals percentage is at 3.3. His defensive instincts are impressive more times than they’re not. For the 14 games he’s played so far, he’s only had four games in which he didn’t log a steal. With all of his defensive activity, he averages less than two steals per game this season—and every other season he’s played.
Though likely positionally limited, Beekman has been doing everything a defensive guard can do to check the boxes. Part of that is individual, isolation-style defense. In this matchup against Baylor, Reece is assigned to Adam Flagler—who is a fairly talented offensive guard. Flagler gets the ball after Dale Bonner (#3) has the door shut on him. Beekman understands the scouting report, as Flagler is a shooting threat from pretty much anywhere inside halfcourt. Our guy meets him outside the line. Flagler takes a couple of dribbles to determine how he would attack the defense. Flagler drives to his right, down the lane. Beekman’s footwork is pretty good here, as he shifts his hips to slide with Flagler while gradually closing off the middle of the lane. Reece’s hands and timing are excellent here, as he times the shot from Flagler. Beekman never gets out of position and knows he can take a calculated risk to swipe the ball as it comes up. He doesn’t force a turnover, but Reece stops the shot before it gets off.
This is a similar style of defensive possession from our guy here. This time, Reece is tasked to defend Terrence Shannon Jr. (#0), who is larger (6’6” / 210). Shannon Jr. gets the ball from Jayden Epps (#3), with Beekman recovering out of his denial stance. Shannon Jr. crosses right and goes to attack the lane. Reece, again, does a great job of playing off his opponent’s side, while funneling him to the sideline and help-side defender. Beekman’s smart hands and timing are able to pressure Shannon Jr. into losing the ball and turning it over.
Oftentimes, defenders can be classified as “good” at certain aspects of defense but not others. For instance, someone may say “Oh, that player is a good man-to-man defenders but struggles when off of the ball.” Other players may suffer the inverse. Being able to play up positionally at the college level, Beekman shows the court awareness to be a defensive playmaker away from the action. We’ll stay in this Illinois game. Beekman is on Terrence Shannon Jr. again, who is stationed in the right corner. The ball changes hands a lot here, coming from Skyy Clark (#55) to Coleman Hawkins (#33) in some DHO action. Clark runs to the left wing, which causes RJ Melendez (#15) to come up and rub off of Hawkins for a potential handoff. Hawkins faces up and goes back into a DHO with Clark. This Pick action causes Clark and Shedrick to put pressure on Clark, leaving Hawkins open. Beekman sees all of this happening from the other side of the court and sprints toward Hawkins. The odds of Clark, who’s feeling pressure from two defenders, giving the ball to the seemingly open defender are pretty high. And that’s exactly what Reece was counting on. Coleman Hawkins takes his eye off the ball as he thinks is coming right into his hands. As he looks up, it’s too late. Beekman meets the ball before Hawkins can corral it. Great forced turnover.
Back to the Baylor game. Reece is assigned to Flagler. Flagler and Jalen Bridges (#11) run a shallow cut, to which Bridges receives the ball from Bonner on the left wing. Notice where the personnel on offense are when Bridges gets the ball. There are four players on the left side of the court, with Flagler on the block. Flagler continues to run out to the left wing as Bridges gets to work on driving to the rim. Bridges is defended by Vander Plas, who is funneling him baseline toward the rim. Reece understands that his man is running away from the ball and likely won’t get it. Reece stops at the lane to help against the driving Bridges. Bridges is met by Beekman and Vander Plas, puts up a forced shot, and it is deflected by our guy. Well-timed shift into help and great ball tracking.
Beekman isn’t a perfect prospect, but he is a player that is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore. The consensus has incrementally slipped him into the conversation. His number as shown are astounding. The film can be a bit divisive. He has the propensity to be one of the better connective rotational players, but also suffers some of the traits of guards that struggle to cope and adapt to an increased level of competition. With the volume of guards that are already thriving in the NBA on top of the guards that exist in this current class, using a mid-to-late second round pick could be defensible depending on the team; however, I wouldn’t count out the possibility of him going undrafted either.