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A Wizards Battle At Shooting Guard

Many aspiring ballers dream of being Kobe Bryant. Most don't do so while defending him mid-game.
Many aspiring ballers dream of being Kobe Bryant. Most don't do so while defending him mid-game.

Color me juiced about the looming training camp battle at shooting guard. I have seen Jordan Crawford torch the Miami Heat. I have seen "I was in my hotel room thinking I couldn't hoop no more." I have seen "[Kevin Garnett] messed with the wrong one." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe his shot chart's highest make percentage would be from half court. The man makes nothing easy, backs down from no one and, as far as I can tell, is the polar opposite of entitled. He dunked on LeBron James and had the tape confiscated by the King's men. How can you not love this guy?

The downside?

The problem was, and remains, that his shot selection remained mind boggling throughout the year and the habit of taking 50 ft jumpshots with 22 seconds left on the clock didn't stop, even after the addition of Nene and the emergence of Kevin Seraphin.

And as Sean also said:

The question remains is whether Jordan Crawford has enough upside to be a starting NBA SG or is destined to be the microwave off the bench which many critics predict is his ceiling.

Most observers won't disagree with the assertion that, with the Wizards, players have played the minutes their upside dictates. That's due, of course, to the extreme youth of the roster and dearth of serviceable veterans. In the plan or not, the acquisitions of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor represent a sea change in that philosophy. The Wizard rookie class of 2010 has grown substantially, and for the first time since Gungate, minutes stand to be allocated just like a real NBA team and almost paradoxically, Bradley Beal will have to earn his.

None of that's to say Beal won't be the opening day starter. Indeed, a significant fraction of fans would no doubt be disappointed if he wasn't able to push Jordan Crawford to the bench. But I won't be surprised if it doesn't happen right away. There shouldn't be any hurry to shoehorn Beal into a second (or first) option role after playing behind Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.

Putting him into a feature role with a young, lightning-fast second unit is a different story. There's less pressure there to immediately grasp all the nuance of the NBA pick and roll offense while giving that group a desperately needed bump in firepower. Of course, what the second unit needs, the first needs just as bradley (blame my father for the sense of humor). If Beal shows the kind of scoring aptitude he did over the closing stretch of his freshman campaign, he will almost certainly be bumped onto the varsity unit.

Many dismiss his rebounding numbers as a figment of playing out of position at SF. Rebounding acumen translates to the NBA, as has been proven time and again. Does the possibility of Beal spotting up for transition threes after trailing fast breaks he should be able to initiate by crashing the boards sound absurd? Pure fantasy...for now.

Jordan Crawford's familiarity with what Randy Wittman wants to do is going to be a huge factor, as will his desire to assert SG supremacy with Nick Young finally out of the picture. Of course, that desire must translate into improved shot selection. So much would be forgiven with that seemingly simple adjustment.

Until the season kicks off, I relish the normalcy of a rookie having to earn his minutes from the incumbent veteran, even if that 'vet' is only halfway into his rookie deal. While, given his purported skillset, it seems only natural to slot Beal Parmesan into a starting role and conversely slotting JCraw into the microwave role, it's an 'if not when' scenario coming out of training camp. Crawford's not done growing as a player yet and Beal failing to immediately supplant him is not necessarily Beal failing as a player or even a future star.

The biggest immediate win for me, as a fan, is the contrasting play styles. One of the major problems pre-trade last year with sitting Nick Young or Jordan Crawford is that the other would be right back to doing the sorts of things that would get them benched...if Witt hadn't just benched whoever had just been playing. BP provides a legitimate alternative to what we'll call 'willful play'. Rookie mistakes will happen. For the first time in years, I can look to the future at SG without a reflexive cringe and a prayer. That's enough for now.

Prediction: Jordan Crawford wins starting role out of training camp. Bradley Beal starting before All-Star break.