First of all, greetings to everyone that's been drawn to this piece by a provocative headline saying that Bradley Beal is saying he's the Wizards' first option. Let's get a few things straight:
- Bradley Beal didn't say he's better than John Wall or anything of the sort. He's in an ad that suggests that he's the team's "first option" which could mean any number of things, depending on how you want to define it. Let's not make a feud here where there isn't one.
- The entity that stands to gain the most from making Bradley Beal look like the Wizards' "first option" is Nike. Not only does that increase Beal's star power, but it's an attempt to knock John Wall (who just so happens to be an Adidas man) down a peg.
- Like most advertisements, this only serves as a launching pad to engage in a discussion that helps increase exposure for the brand that started the discussion. By continuing to read this piece, you are consenting to be a part of this unwritten social contract.
Now that we're clear on things, let's take a look at the ad from Nike that Bradley Beal posted on his Instagram page Monday night:
Everything in that ad sounds great except for that quick fragment of a sentence at the end of the first line. Hearing someone other than John Wall being referred to as the "First option" goes against everything the Wizards have tried to build the past five seasons. Since the day the Wizards learned they were going to be able to take John Wall with the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft, everything the Wizards have done since has been with the goal of building around him as the franchise cornerstone.
But as we've seen for the past five seasons, if there's one flaw that keeps John Wall from being a superstar, it's his scoring ability. While he has made great strides in recent years, he doesn't inspire championship dreams if he's the primary scoring option. And let's face it, as much as we try to value everything a player brings to the table, the majority of basketball fans judge who a team's best player is by who scores the most. So while most people will agree that Wall is still the team's most complete player, Beal is a very real threat to become the team's best scoring option at some point in the not-to-distant future.
And in some respects, we may have already seen the passing of the torch when it comes to primary scoring duties. During the regular season, Wall only averaged 0.6 more field goal attempts per game than Beal (and averaged 0.1 shots less than Beal per 36 minutes). Wall's extra trips to the free throw line helped him keep a healthy 2.2 points per game gap between himself and Beal, but things changed during the playoffs:
It's important to remember when looking at those numbers from 11 games that Beal's game was much better suited to take advantage of holes in Chicago and Indiana's defenses than Wall's game. But certainly, you can understand where some people might jump to the conclusion that Beal is the Wizards' first option as they move forward.
If there's a silver lining to all this, it's that Beal and Wall's games are mutually beneficial. It's in both players best interests to continue to feed off one another. If Wall looks off Beal to take more shots, his assist numbers go down and his scoring deficiencies will be exposed. If Beal tries to demand the ball more, he won't get nearly the same number of high-quality looks. On the court, there shouldn't be any problems, regardless of how much debate there is among talking heads elsewhere.
That said, there's a potential danger off the court that unfortunately hopefully-isn't-but-maybe-is worth monitoring as the Wall-Beal dynamic continues to evolve. If a real alpha-dog struggle begins in the locker room, can the team keep things together behind the scenes, especially now that there's less veteran leadership? (Probably, but who knows?) Plus, there's the issue of Beal's upcoming rookie contract extension. Under the current CBA, teams can only give one player a five-year extension on their rookie deal, and the Wizards already used that designation on Wall. Will that one day bother Beal and lead him to act in some way?
Like I said at the beginning, this isn't Beal trying to disrespect Wall or anything even remotely close to it. But if nothing else, this serves as a reminder that where Wall and Beal stand on the Wizards' hierarchy is a situation that will continue to change and develop over time. How each player handles their role will be key to ensuring the long-term success of the duo and the team built around it.