Getting selected in the Top 3 in the NBA draft is quite the feat. On a positive note, you just earned the biggest payday of your life to that point, but that doesn’t come without an equal amount of pressure and people quick to criticize should things not work out right away.
The Wizards selected Bradley Beal in that position in 2012 in hopes of building the next young and promising backcourt with him and John Wall. Beal, with the reputation as the next sharpshooter coming out of college to go along with the speedy Wall, would give the opposition fits for years to come - or so Washington hoped.
Things didn’t go according to plan for Beal as his first few seasons were plagued with injury and inconsistent shooting causing some premature and unwarranted murmurings from some impatient fans. His ability to elevate his play in the 2014 and 2015 NBA Playoffs impressed many but it didn’t get rid of the cloud hanging over him. Beal couldn’t shake the injury bug through the first four seasons of his career causing everyone in the front office to the fans to wince every time he hit the deck.
But that never deterred Beal. Brick by brick, offseason by offseason, Brad would add one thing here and one thing there to his game to prove that he was more than just a shooter.
The 2016-2017 season was a ‘turning the corner’ of sorts for Beal. That year, Beal eclipsed the 70 game mark for the first time since his sophomore season and scored 23.1 points per game on a career-best 48.2 percent shooting. For the first time in his career, Beal had health on his side and just narrowly missed out on an All-Star game appearance as the NBA opted to go with Carmelo Anthony as a reserve over Beal.
Ever since that All-Star snub in 2017, the former number three pick has elevated his game to a new level with two All-Star appearances, back-to-back career years, and becoming the only player in Wizards franchise history to average 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists for a season.
In years past, averaging 25-5-5 was a golden ticket to get you penciled in for All-NBA honors. But not last year as Kemba Walker narrowly edged out Beal for the final guard spot on the All-NBA third team.
Unlike many top players, the elevator to success was broken for Beal and he’s been forced to take the stairs. He’s no longer considered just a shooter and has rounded out his game so much so that numerous teams called the Wizards front office this past year inquiring about the asking price to trade for him - not to mention the three-year $111 Million dollar extension offered to him by Washington. He’s improved his game to the point that you can pretty much pencil him in for and All-Star selection barring anything disastrous happening. But is this the year he finally breaks through and earns himself a spot on an All-NBA team?
With John Wall sidelined for the entire upcoming season, Bradley Beal is now the man in Washington. For the first time in his career, there will be no playing second fiddle to Wall. He’ll be by far and away the best Wizards’ player on the floor every single night. Beal will be the focal point for Washington (and opposing defenses) on a nightly basis and will have every opportunity possible to be in the running for a spot on an All-NBA roster.
First off, he’ll have a neon green light on the offensive end of the court. With expectations the lowest they’ve been in Washington in nearly a decade and youth scattered around him, Beal will have plenty of opportunities to get his shots up. Beal averaged a career-high 25.6 points per contest on 19.6 field goal attempts last year and there’s no reason to think either of those numbers will slide next year.
Brad has shown that he’s more than capable of running the show and should find himself triggering the offense more next year with John Wall out. 57.5 percent of all of his two point field goals were unassisted with many of those coming on finishes at the rim, something he’s really worked very hard on the past two years. But not only will unassisted field goal percentage likely spike, he has a good chance to increase his assist numbers too.
Beal having the ball in his hands more not only means more opportunities to score but also more opportunities to assist as defenses will be zeroing in on him. And let’s not forget about the rapport he developed with Thomas Bryant in the pick-and-roll action.
An unknown for Beal entering next year and something that could wind up being a disadvantage is going to be his minutes. Last season, coach Scott Brooks played Beal a league-leading 36.9 minutes per game as the Wizards made their ‘playoff push’ over the final third of the season.
The Wizards likely won’t be in the hunt for the playoffs and Brooks might have management whispering in his ear to keep his load down should they choose to trade the star prior to the deadline. If they’re smart, the Wizards will keep a close eye on Beal’s minutes to make sure they don’t run him into the ground in during a rebuilding season.
Unfortunately, the biggest thing working against Bradley Beal’s All-NBA case next season is going to be the team he’s on. Let’s not kid ourselves, making the playoffs matters and guys who are on teams poised to make deep runs in the postseason are likely to get the benefit of the doubt over guys who miss the playoffs. Look no further than last year as 13 of the 15 players who made All-NBA played in the postseason with Kemba Walker being the only guard whose team missed the playoffs.
One thing’s for sure, there will be no shortage of opportunities for Bradley Beal to stuff the stat sheet next season as another 25-5-5 year is in sight. It’s just, will the potential lack of team success sway the voter’s minds once again?