During an otherwise hopeless season plagued by injuries and dysfunction, Bradley Beal has been the lone flower to blossom out of the pile of manure that is the 2018-19 Washington Wizards.
On Saturday night, Beal scored 40 points against the Memphis Grizzlies — his second 40-point game in as many nights. With just 11 games remaining on the schedule, Beal is making the media’s vote for All-NBA increasingly easier. Since the All-Star break, Beal has averaged 29.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game on 49.6 percent shooting from the field and 38.9 percent shooting on threes.
Those numbers pop off the screen for a reason: they’re All-NBA, superstar-type numbers. And that’s exactly what Beal has become this season.
But it’s come at a cost.
Going into Monday’s action, Beal had played nearly 200 more minutes than any other player in the NBA. He’s averaging 37.7 minutes per game — the most in the league. He also covers 2.83 miles per game — which, also, is the most distanced covered per game in the NBA.
In their irrational pursuit to make the player, the Wizards haven’t shied away from playing their star player — who could be due for a supermax contract extension this summer — an absurd amount of minutes.
As our own Jake Whitacre wrote, the Wizards are refusing to wave the white flag on the season — and that’s evident in the miles Beal has added, quite literally.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made it clear that he wants his team to make the playoffs — and the coaching staff, and the front office has taken it as a directive.
Here’s the reality, though, and it’s one the Wizards have refused to accept: they won’t be making the playoffs this year.
Washington has less than a 5 percent chance to make the playoffs. This isn’t a 2016 Presidential Election type of situation, where projections don’t always play out the way people expect. Over 85 percent of the returns are already in. The Wizards are 11 games below .500 with four less wins than the ninth-place Miami Heat.
It’s just not happening.
The Wizards must accept their reality soon, otherwise Beal will continue to rack up meaningless minutes. Every NBA player has a finite amount of minutes they can spend on the court. Some have more minutes than others. But everyone has a limit. Washington has to recognize that Beal is in the prime of his career — and if they want to prolong his prime, saving those minutes for next season (and the one after) is something they must begin to do.
The Wizards seem to have forgotten that there will be another season — and Beal, again, will be the team’s most important player. Or, perhaps they have - and they’re merely making these potentially detrimental decisions for the sake of saving their coaching/managing careers.
Three years ago, Beal — who suffered two stress reactions in his legs since being drafted — thought he was going to be on a minutes restriction for the rest of his career. The question is, what changed? Did his body become immune to such injury — one that typically occurs after a substantial amount of wear and tear? It’s something the Wizards haven’t addressed, at least publicly, but the amount of minutes he’s played is a cause for concern.
Whatever the case may be, Beal has given the Wizards all he possibly can — more than any other player has given their team. It’s time for them to give him the same courtesy and operate within their reality.