Top-3 picks in the NBA have an enormous amount of pressure on their shoulders. The territory comes with the expectation that the player will be a major contributor immediately. If that isn’t the case, folks won’t hesitate to label the guy a ‘bust’ or ‘overrated’.
After being drafted third overall in 2012, the elevator to NBA stardom was out of order for Bradley Beal. As a result, he had to take the stairs. Brick by brick, offseason by offseason, Beal tweaked one thing here and improved on one thing there culminating the 2018-2019 season into the best one of his career — his seventh season as a pro.
Positives this season
The laundry list of accolades starts with Beal averaging 25.6 points, 5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He became the first player in Washington Wizards franchise history to average 25-5-5 for a season. He surpassed Gilbert Arenas for most three-pointers made in franchise history and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week multiple times. For a guy who was plagued with injuries early on in his career, he appeared in all 82 games for the second straight season and made his second consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game.
Beal’s season can be split into two categories — with John Wall and without Wall. A very solid November where Beal averaged 21.2 points per game would lay the foundation for his All-Star campaign. His shooting, rebounding, assisting and usage all spiked starting in December when he was playing alongside a hobbled Wall.
The All-Star shooting guard gave us a good hint that he was capable of being the guy over an 11 game stretch in December where he scored at least 20 points a night and shot 47 percent from the field over that stretch capped off with the first triple-double of his career on Dec. 22 against the Phoenix Suns.
With Wall sidelined and Otto Porter in and out of the lineup (before getting traded), Beal became the clear focal point for opposing defenses. Even with teams zeroing in on Beal, he responded in February by turning in the best month of the season (and his career) as he averaged 30.9 points, 6.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds and entered the All-NBA team discussion. Night after night, Beal put the team on his back often playing north of 40 minutes per game in hopes that the Wizards could keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Beal’s ascension into All-NBA consideration proved to be one of the few bright spots for a Wizards season which was otherwise filled with chaos and disappointment.
Spots for improvement
One of the dirty little secrets about Beal that isn’t talked about much outside of Washington is his three-point shooting. Beal shot a career-worst 35.1 percent from three-point range this season on 7.3 attempts. Shooting 35.1 percent from distance isn’t terrible. But at the same time, it’s not ideal for a guy who has the reputation of being a knockdown shooter.
Yes, teams were honing in on him however in order for Beal to live up to the hype of being a knockdown shooter, which is what many view him as, that number should really be more around 40 percent.
Another bugaboo which doesn’t make much sense on the surface is his free throw shooting. Beal got to the line 5.5 times per contest but connected on just 80.8 percent of his attempts. Again, not terrible but you’d like to see that number in the 85-90 percent range.
It’s no secret that the Wizards were one of the worst teams in the NBA defensively and Beal didn’t help the cause. Like his backcourt mate in Wall, when Beal was locked in defensively, he proved that he could be a very good defender. But, there were too many lapses and inconsistencies on the defensive end for anyone to consider him a legitimate two-way player.
To be fair to Beal, he had to pick his spots. With teams eyeing in on him offensively, Beal had to work extra hard on offense which resulted in him taking possessions off on the defensive end. Not saying that Beal is a bad defender, but no one’s calling him a two-way player either.
How much is Beal worth in the open market? That’s the $194 million dollar question. Per The Athletic, Beal would be eligible for a $194 million dollar extension this summer which would kick in starting in 2021 should he make an All-NBA team. All things considered, Beal seems to be paid appropriately at the moment making $25 million per year — on par with other All-Stars and borderline All-NBA players.
But the new GM for the Wizards could decide to go in a completely different route. If Beal makes an All-NBA team, rather than offering him a supermax extension, the team could opt to trade Beal and perform a complete reset of the roster.
Coming off the best season of his career, Beal’s trade value and reputation around the league are the highest they’ve ever been. However, it only makes sense to trade Beal if Washington has identified a player or combination of players which would get the team younger, cheaper or draft picks which could potentially land them a new franchise centerpiece.
When trade rumors started to swirl around Beal before the All-Star break, Washington’s asking price was high. It was reported that the Wizards wouldn’t entertain any offer unless two first round picks and a young asset were involved. That seemed like an astronomical asking price but former management clearly wasn’t looking to shop Beal.
If the Wizards do offer Beal a supermax this summer, it will be clear that they see him as the franchise player going forward because Wall’s health is a major unknown. But if things don’t work out as planned, Washington could very well find themselves backed into a corner yet again and have to unload a player solely for financial relief.
The new General Manager, who has yet to be hired, already has a laundry list of items to tackle. But his first thing on his list is to decide whether Bradley Beal fits in the Wizards’ future if he makes an All-NBA team.