The Wizards lost a heartbreaker to the Hawks Wednesday night. Paul Pierce hit a three to put the Wizards up one with less than nine seconds left, and they seemed to have the game in hand. Then after a great block by John Wall, Nene decided to revert back to the Nene of games one and two and didn’t block out Al Horford. Horford collected the offensive board and converted a point blank put back to put the Hawks up for good.
The Wizards are down 3-2 even with John Wall’s gritty 15 and 7 with his fractured wrist. Over 80% of teams who win game 5 in a 2-2 series go on to win, and there is concern Wall may not play in Game 6 due to his wrist taking some hits. We’re going to go ahead and ignore all that for the time being and focus on the Wizards’ best young star not named John Wall. We’re talking of course about Bradley Beal.
During the 2013-14 season Beal looked to be blossoming into the All-Star the Wizards thought he could be when they drafted him with the third overall pick in 2012. Beal averaged 17 points during his sophomore campaign and continued his strong play into the postseason where he averaged 19 points, five rebounds, and over four assists. But then 2014-15 was not the breakout season many had predicted for the young shooting guard.
After starting less than 60 games during the regular season, Beal looked to have regressed after his scoring dipped to just over 15 points a game. While it was understandable that Beal needed to shake off some rust after missing over 20 games due to injury, many had thought he would be an All-Star during the 2014-15 season. It was alarming that he never showed that kind of ability.
No position in today’s NBA has more depth than point guard. There are at least ten current NBA floor generals who all have All-Star caliber ability. This is not the case with the shooting guard position. After James Harden, Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler, you could make a strong case for Bradley Beal already being the fourth most skilled two guard in the league. He has been proving this and more during the 2015 playoffs.
In Game 4 against the Hawks, Beal delivered possibly the best performance of his career along with one of the best performances by any player so far in these playoffs. He finished with 34 points, seven assists, and six rebounds. Outside of his impressive stat line, Beal proved he could beat a team in a variety of ways. In the first half, Beal had all seven of his assists to go along with 15 points on ten shots. While he was being aggressive and looking for his own shot, he also understood the need for someone to step up as a playmaker in Wall’s absence.
In the second half of Game 4, Beal ignited his offense in what ended up being a 5-point loss for the Wizards. Beal had 19 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter, to go along with three steals. Beal looked like an All-Star shooting guard in game 4 and has been one of the best players throughout this year’s playoffs.
In the second round, Beal is averaging 24.4 points (fourth among the eight remaining teams) and over five assists, and five rebounds a game. Beal is one of only four players to be averaging at least 24 points, five assists, and five rebounds in the second round -- the other three being LeBron James, Blake Griffin, and James Harden. While Beal has not shot the ball great (41% from the field), he is shooting over 39 percent from three and trails only Jimmy Butler in minutes played.
Everything Beal has done this postseason has excited Wizards fan about his potential, but nothing is more exciting than the fact that Beal is still just 21 years old. If Beal can consistently be the aggressive offensive threat he has been in the playoffs, the Wizards backcourt will be challenging that of the Warriors for the best in the league.