Bradley Beal is pissed off — and he has reason to be.
Over the past few weeks, NBA analysts have been releasing their choices for All-NBA, and I’ve yet to find a list that includes Beal. If you take a look at his Twitter page, it’s evident that he’s noticed the lists too.
For those who need a reminder: Beal averaged 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game this season. There are only two players who put up those numbers at Beal’s age: LeBron James and Michael Jordan. This has been done in 21 player seasons by a total of 10 individuals, including Beal. All of them are, or will be, Hall of Famers.
So imagine not making the All-Star team — and then being left off the All-NBA list, too.
You’d be pissed.
And rightfully so.
What is the All-NBA team, anyway?
History tells us that it’s an individual award, and sometimes, it’s even a way to make it up to the players who were snubbed from the All-Star game.
Al Jefferson was on the 2014 All-NBA third team after not being named an All-Star. Goran Dragic wasn’t an All-Star that same season, but was considered to be an All-NBA player. Last season, Kemba Walker was given All-NBA status even though the Charlotte Hornets didn’t make the playoffs.
So why the hell won’t Beal make the All-NBA team this year? He was snubbed from the All-Star game, right?
Because “analysts” don’t want to reward losing (even though they’ve done so in the past — see above). Because “analysts” want to tell you that what you’re seeing isn’t reality — that you’re missing “something,” that something being a dug up statistic unearthed for the purpose of confirming some odd bias.
Sure, Beal averaged 36.2 points per game in February, while shooting a scorching 48%. But analysts will tell you that the Wizards were bad — and defensively, one of the worst teams in league history.
But conveniently, they will remove context. They won’t mention that Isaiah Thomas started for a large part of the season, thus eliminating any hope the Wizards had of becoming competitive defensively. Washington’s defense was 6.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Beal on the floor and Thomas sitting than they were with Beal and Thomas on the floor together.
Beal isn’t Tony Allen — and chances are, he never will be. But Allen was never the offensive wrecking ball that Beal is, and Washington’s defensive numbers, both as a team and for each respective player, were marred by Thomas’ presence.
Apparently, to make the All-NBA team, Beal had to average 30 points per game, lead a team comprised mostly of 20-year-old G-League players to the playoffs, and somehow enter the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Now — to those analysts, I’ll ask this: can’t you see how absolutely absurd such a standard would be?
Since when did we begin implementing a practically unreachable bar for players? Something we chose to ignore when it came to Jefferson, Walker, and Dragic.
Is it because we’ve entered a universe where statistics, devoid of any real context, matter more than historical precedent and what we’re seeing on the hardwood?
Anybody who’s watched basketball can see that Beal is among the top players in the world. His game speaks for itself. The numbers do too.
And if you needed more, just look at what the Wizards looked like without him in the bubble — not competitive, not inspired, and practically unwatchable.
These people who talk themselves out of Beal being an All-Star are the same folks who complain when players leave their market to join a superteam — where they will inevitably get the recognition they have long deserved. These same people pave the way for noncompetitive basketball by pushing players like Beal out of town relying on contrarian thought and personalized advanced statistics, instead of finding an answer based in reality and reasonable data.
If Beal isn’t an All-Star — if he isn’t an All-NBA player — then what is he? Just another run of the mill pro? If you think so, I’d urge you to do another assessment — to watch the tape, to look at the numbers.
Asking Beal to be an elite defender while carrying the team offensively — while averaging Hall-of-Fame statistics, without any real help around him — is unreasonable, unrealistic, and hurts the legitimacy of one’s opinion.
Players of Beal’s caliber are the reason such awards exist: to highlight the league’s best, which Beal has proven to be. It is not a showcase for which analyst can lead the way as a contrarian — or worse, a platform used to flaunt one’s “basketball intelligence” in the face of a casual fan.
What more could Beal have possibly done to get some recognition? The honest answer, besides play for a different team, is absolutely nothing.
“Analysts” — please, do me one favor, and put yourself in his shoes.
If you were among the best writers in the game, but worked alongside a staff that wasn’t very good, shouldn’t you still win some awards for your journalism? Or should a not-as-good writer, who works for a publication staffed with more talent, get the award — even though you’re the more impressive wordsmith?
That wouldn’t make much sense — not to me, at least.
To restore meaning into these type of awards — to give players a reason to care, to stay with their teams, to continue playing with the effort they do — then elite players should be getting recognition. Stop talking yourself out of reality just because you can — just because you can dig up a random statistic that backs up a contrarian viewpoint.
Because, ultimately, analysts: the award isn’t about you. It’s not about your hot takes, your random statistics, or some unachievable imaginary bar you’ve created.
It’s about rewarding players who deserve it.
And if Beal doesn’t deserve it this season, then what’s the point of the award anyway?
Shout out to Kevin Broom for data assistance.