The Washington Wizards knew they’d be shorthanded in the 2019-20 season with John Wall out for the season with an Achilles injury. His absence, while devastating, allowed others to grow into larger roles, especially Bradley Beal.
Beal took another step forward in his production with a full season to show what he could do as Washington’s primary offensive option. He thrived under the circumstances. However, given Washington’s 24-40 regular season and 1-7 bubble performance without him, Beal has become the subject of trade rumors. Can Washington keep Beal despite the chatter and perform at a strong level next season? Or is it better to trade him while his value is still high?
Beal averaged a career-high 30.5 points and 6.1 assists per game in 57 games played, all in the pre-bubble part of the 2019-20 regular season. In addition, Beal made a career-high 3.0 three point shots per game.
Beal was the face of the Wizards throughout the 2019-20 NBA season before their two-week stint in the Orlando bubble. His offensive production was never in doubt, as he scored double digits in every game he played. He averaged 33.6 points per game from January on.
Beal’s best two game stretch came on February 23 and February 24 when he scored 53 and 55 points, respectively, in losses to the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks in back-to-back days.
Despite the losses, Beal shot over 50% from the field and made at least five threes in both games.
While Beal has become an elite scorer, his defense has been lacking. All too often, his defensive effort lagged. Kevin Broom analyzed the Wizards’ poor defense last February. That analysis was corroborated by Stadium Speak, which showed Beal’s poor movement when caught in screens.
Like many Wizards’ players this season, his defensive flaws were amplified when Isaiah Thomas played for the team in the first half of the season. The defense was better by 6.4 points per 100 possessions when Beal was in the lineup without Thomas. In addition, the Wizards depended heavily on Beal for offensive production, and it showed.
Even on the offensive end Beal had some areas of concern. Last season, Beal made 35.3%, not much better than 35.1% he made in 2018-19. In the first five seasons of his career, Beal shot 39.9% on threes. Many of those attempts earlier in his career came with Wall in the lineup. It could also be that he’s being forced to take more difficult shots because of increased defensive attention.
What’s next for Beal?
For now, Beal is expected to remain with the Wizards next season and he will make a salary of approximately $34.5 million starting in the 2021-22 season.
Trade rumors have the Lakers to Warriors interested in making a move for Beal. It is possible Beal gets traded next season. However, the Wizards seem intent on seeing how Wall and Beal play together when Wall’s back on the floor next season.
The odds of them making the Wizards Eastern Conference championship contenders aren’t great. As Kevin Broom noted last week, they aren’t close to contending. If anything they should look to rebuild, which the Wizards have sort of started as is.
That said, the Wizards are set on seeing how things look at least one more year with Beal and Wall as a starting backcourt and will move from there.