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2021-22 Wizards player evaluations: Bradley Beal continues his transformation to a combo guard in his shortened season

This season was not the best for the franchise player given his wrist injury and declining three point shooting efficiency. But Beal continued to become a better distributor as well.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards
This season was a setback for Bradley Beal.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Our 2021-22 Washington Wizards player evaluation series continues with Bradley Beal. For the other players whom we’ve evaluated, click here.


Stats

In the 2021-22 NBA season, Beal averaged 23.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game for the Wizards. The assist average was a career-high for him, but his three point shooting percentage dropped to 30 percent (1.6 makes out of 5.3 attempts), a career-low.

Best game in 2021-22

On December 18, Beal scored 37 points and dished 7 assists in a 109-103 win over the Utah Jazz.

Pros

Beal remained one of the NBA’s better all-around scorers this season and he continued to shoot above 50 percent from two point range, which he has now done every season since 2016-17.

He also has become one of the best assisters among combo guards, which Cleaning the Glass (subscription required) reclassified him in 2021-22 after being classified as a wing in every other season of his career. Beal ranked in the 90th percentile (AST% of 30.9 percent) among combo guards this year. The AST% figure is also a career-high for him.

I know that the Wizards are still supposedly looking for another John Wall. But ... maybe Beal fits the point guard role well enough. After all, Beal has effectively played that role for various stretches in each of the last five seasons since Wall’s injury woes took a dark turn.

Cons

Beal’s three-point shooting efficiency has continued to decline since the 2016-17 season. He hasn’t shot above 36 percent from deep since the 2017-18 season and shot a career-low from there this past season. It is also the first season where Beal had a significant injury since the 2015-16 season. Beal missed the last two months of the season due to a non-whooting wrist injury which is quite serious though he and the team maintain that he will have a full recovery.

Finally, Beal is expected to opt out of the last year of his contract ($36.4 million in 2022-23) and enter free agency. There is a lot of hearsay on what he may or may not do, but Beal is leaning toward signing a new extension that could be up to five years and $250 million. While every NBA player should sign for as much money as he can, that also comes at a time for a franchise that doesn’t have the cap space or the reputation for signing many All-Star players outright in free agency.

What to expect in 2022-23

The Wizards’ future on the court rests in Beal’s hands. I am wary of him signing a five-year, $250 million deal after seeing how megadeals for Wall and Gilbert Arenas worked out in the past. But I don’t blame Beal for taking the money if it’s offered.

Let’s assume Beal is back this fall, and forget about the exact salary he earns for a moment. And also, we should assume the Wizards’ goal in 2022-23 is to return to the NBA Playoffs instead of “rebuilding for the future” a la “The Process.”

If Beal is fully recovered from the wrist injury, there are two things that he must do. First, Beal must rediscover his three point shot, in particular off the dribble, which has been sorely lacking in recent seasons. I’m not confident that the Wizards will find a “proven point guard” for next season, and Beal’s game has evolved to a point where he can be suitable for that role now with another combo guard.

Second, Beal must develop great on-court chemistry with Kristaps Porzingis. To this point in his career, Beal has never played alongside an All-Star post player (though Marcin Gortat was very close at times). Since both he and Porzingis can score anywhere on the court and distribute the ball well for their positions, hopefully, that will keep defenses guessing and get this team back in a winning direction.