SB Nation asked each team site to make predictions about how their team’s first round playoff series would go and who would be the series MVP. Initially, I was just going to go with John Wall because he’s awesome and usually he’s the best player on whatever basketball court he steps on, especially in this Atlanta series.
However, after some research and contemplation, I think Bradley Beal is the better candidate to be the MVP of this series. This isn’t to take anything away from Wall or diminish his role on the team, but simply because there are a few factors in this series that favor Beal much more than they favor Wall.
Beal has played very well despite the team’s recent struggles
All the talk about Washington’s up and down play since the All-Star break has made it easy to forget just how well Beal has played lately. His scoring and shooting numbers have actually been better since the All-Star break, even though his usage rate has also gone up.
He was one of only nine players to use over one-fourth of their team’s possessions while on the floor and post a true shooting percentage over 61 percent after the All-Star break. That put him in great company along with other elite scorers like Stephen Curry, Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, LeBron James, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley, and Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s firing on all cylinders right now.
Shots will be available from deep
As Kris Willis mentioned in our Q&A with Peachtree Hoops, Atlanta’s weak spot defensively is beyond the arc. No team in the playoffs allowed more three point attempts per 100 possessions than the Hawks, and only three playoff teams allowed a better percentage on those shots.
Beal attempted at least seven threes in each of the Wizards’ three wins against the Hawks this season. The only reason he didn’t get to that mark in the Wizards’ season-opening loss against Atlanta was because foul trouble kept him from getting into a rhythm. As long as he can avoid the whistles, he’ll get plenty of chances to hurt Atlanta from deep, especially as they devote extra attention to stopping John Wall from getting into the paint.
He has good playoff history against the Hawks
When the Wizards and Hawks last met in the playoffs back in 2015, Beal came through with several strong performances. He averaged 25.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in the series, and played a big part in limiting Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll’s effectiveness beyond the arc. He did it all even though John Wall was limited thanks to the wrist injury he suffered in Game 1 of the series.
The personnel has changed a bit in Atlanta since then, but the scheme is largely the same and Beal has only gotten better since then. Don’t be surprised if Beal has another big series against the Hawks.