Bradley Beal and the James Harden Effect

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Modern basketball has placed a premium on highly skilled scoring playmakers and shot makers. And as the game changes, so does the compensation, as possessing one or both of these coveted skills guarantees a windfall.

Start with shot makers. Davis Bertans furnishes a perfect example. Having worked himself back from two ACL injuries, the Latvian Laser, with his reconstructed knees, earned an $80 million contract for his exceptional ability to snipe from long range.

But there’s an even bigger premium on scoring playmakers. We have James Harden to thank (or blame) for that. When traded to the Houston Rockets and inserted as the de-facto point (scoring) guard, Harden revolutionized basketball.

As the shooting guard, it was a given that he could score. By adding the role of playmaking, the Rockets released a true artist onto the basketball canvass. Like all great art, great works inspire others to reach the same level. That brings us to point: Letting Bradley Beal have a James Harden effect on the Wizards offense.

Like Harden before him, we know Beal can score. When featured as the Number one option last season, he averaged a career best 30 points per game. With John Wall sidelined, the Wizards got to see what Beal could do as a primary playmaker. Dishing out 6 helpers per game, his scoring and playmaking contributed a nightly range of 42-48 points for the Wizards.

This season, his assists numbers are down to just shy of 5 a game. Instead of minimizing his playmaking, the Wizards should continue to increase it. As Harden’s scoring went up in Houston, so too did his nightly assist totals. And it makes sense: A dangerous scorer cannot be guarded by just one player. The ability to score at all levels means there’s a chance to draw a mismatch and increase chances of a favorable outcome on each possession. So, we need to continue it, but how?

Staggering minutes for Beal and Russell Westbrook is a start. This doesn’t mean taking the ball out of Westbrook's hands totally, as he and Bertans seem to mesh well.

It does mean Scott Brooks should schedule Beal's minutes with his favorite playmaking target: Thomas Bryant. Against Minnesota, Beal's 31 points and 7 assists mightily contributed to the Wizards blowout win. Note that 3 of Beal’s 7 helpers went to Bryant. Against Brooklyn, 2 of Brad’s 5 dimes were cashed in by Bryant. There’s synergy between the two, and I believe that they can develop a wicked two-man game if Brooks plays the rotation right.

If it happens, the game winning drive-to-dime sequence against the Nets may become a staple of the Wizards' offense.

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