WASHINGTON -- The first John Wall to Bradley Beal assist couldn't have been more perfect. As the first quarter of Washington's 93-83 victory over the Atlanta Hawks wound down, Atlanta guard Lou Williams missed a jump shot and the rebound went to Washington. Wall got the ball, streaked down the court in transition, slowed down to let his teammates catch up and hit a sprinting Beal with a pass to set up the transition dunk.
Beal was drafted to be Washington's shooting guard of the future. Slightly undersized and without noteworthy quickness, Beal is nonetheless the perfect shooting guard for a team built around Wall. There are a lot of ways to score 20 points, but not a lot of guys can do it night in and night out entirely within the flow of the offense. When your franchise player is a pass-first point guard who lacks a reliable jump shot, being able to score without stopping the ball becomes even more valuable.
Wall's second assist to Beal, while not as spectacular as his first one, featured the type of play that the team likely envisioned running when they selected Beal on draft day. After an Atlanta run, Washington started to build some momentum again in the third quarter. Up eight with 4:38 left in the quarter, Wall brought the ball up and made a move right from the top of the key. Seeing the defense react to Wall's penetration, Beal patiently spotted up in the weakside corner. Wall made his move, saw Beal and fired the pass. In one motion, Beal caught the pass, took the shot, made the shot and broke the game open as Washington went up 11.
As anyone with any familiarity with the John Wall Missed Assist Tracker can tell you, Wall would have put up a lot more dimes last year if he'd had better teammates. Beal, with his excellent off-ball movement and improving spot up shooting, struggled to produce out of the gate for a team with no one who can initiate the kinds of plays that he specializes in finishing. Beal, who was on the court for the majority of Wall's minutes, scored 16 points and was +19 in 40 minutes of playing time. The pairing of the two is a no-brainer.
Wall played quite a few minutes next to Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, two guards who prefer to dribble around the court searching for shots, during his first two seasons. The results were anything but ideal. Wall, when asked about the change to his game that comes with playing next to Beal this year, described him as "... a knock-down shooter, somebody that can make plays and also make shots so it makes it easier for me."
Even though it was Beal's first professional outing next to Wall, the two are already gelling.
"The chemistry is already there, it's been there since I got here, and it's going to continue to grow," Beal told reporters after the game.
Beal went on to add that he'll hopefully be more productive now that Wall is back, adding, "He really makes things easy, takes the pressure off of you because he draws the defense in to him."
At first glance, Wall's return did little to solve the Wizards' offensive woes. Washington scored only 93 points in an up-tempo game, shot only 46 percent from the floor as a team and had almost as many turnovers as assists. Context is key, though, and Washington's 93-point performance was four better than their season average despite Atlanta's eighth ranked defense and the absence of leading scorer Jordan Crawford.
The defensive attention Wall can draw just might be the most important contribution he can make to the Wizards this year. Washington has fielded a league-worst offense and a top ten defense this season. If Wall and Beal can help them put a few more points on the board each night, the improvement in the team's bottom line would be striking.