Bradley Beal, your ticket to prominence is nearing arrival—in the form of John Wall.
After missing nearly half the season courtesy of a stress injury to his left patella, Wall is well on his way to returning to the hardwood. Which is great news for the rookie Beal.
Wall is edging closer to putting on his No. 2 jersey soon and said that he plans to be back on court against Atlanta on Saturday if he can make it through this week without having any setbacks or extreme pain in his left knee. He returned to practice last week and said that he hasn’t had any complications moving around as he did before.“I’m good, I’m just tired right now,” Wall said. “I’m just working my way back in shape and just excited and happy to be back out there with my teammates and go through a full practice without no pain and just see how I feel. … Hopefully everything will keep going well so I can be back out there with my team on Saturday.”
Though Wall's return is unlikely to spur a miraculous turnaround for the 5-28 Wizards, it does provide the franchise with a sense hope.
This was supposed to be the year that Washington moved on from the continuous anguish often associated with its existence.This was supposed to be a year when the Wizards toiled with the prospect of a playoff berth.
This was supposed to be the year dominated by a star-studded backcourt dyad in Wall and Beal.
Not enough is made of Wall's ability to make his teammates better. He's one of the quickest players—if not the fastest player—in the NBA and he can put up points at the rim in a hurry. His hands are also just as quick as his feet and he's one of the better off-ball defenders the league has to offer.
His court vision and his ability to create scoring opportunities for his brethren, however, remains vastly underrated. Which borders on tragic.
Those were eight assists per game that accompanied his 16.3 points and 1.3 steals last season. Simply put, the kid can distribute, and do it well.
His penchant for attacking the rim compresses defenses and allows him to sling passes out to open wings or trailing big men when he pleases. Wall's seemingly limitless ceiling as a playmaker when leading the break also deserves some due recognition.
And no one in Washington stands to benefit from this more than Beal.
Upon his selection, Beal was destined to have a dominant inaugural campaign. Both he and Wall embodied speed and versatility, and opposing defenses were bound to crumble under their various methods of attack.
But Beal's rookie crusade hasn't gone according to plan.
Wall's been forced to watch from the sidelines and the burden of leading these Wizards has fallen upon Beal. And while he's responded admirably, the trials and tribulations of a neophyte without a proven accomplice are inescapable.
Beal is averaging a quaint 13.1 points per game (fourth among rookies) and has hit a number of big shots, but he's converting on just 36.7 percent of his field-goal attempts. As a universally-proclaimed sharp-shooter, his 32.3 success rate from downtown is rather unimpressive as well.
Also of concern is the impact he hasn't had on Washington's offense. Long considered a combo guard who can inject whatever an offense needed, be it deferring or scoring, Beal has proved to be a bit of hindrance.
With the rookie on the floor, the Wizards are scoring at a rate of 94 points per 100 possessions. Once he steps off, however, that number rises to 98. Their turnover rate also declines with him riding the pine as well.
Undoubtedly, Beal's lack of efficiency from the field hasn't helped his case as an offensive catalyst. But let's not fail to understand the gravity of his current situation.
Few rookies—if any, outside of Damian Lillard—are expected to not only lead an offense, but take the last shot. Defenses are able to zero in on Beal because 1) he isn't fully adjusted to the pace of game at this level and 2) he doesn't have any lethal weapons (I mean truly dangerous) to dish off to.
Beal was built to play a diverse role. He's at his best when he can mesh his on-ball exploits with his superior off-ball movements, cuts and slashes. Varying his method of execution makes him more difficult to defend while also opening up a number of other options for his team.
With Wall dominating the rock once again, Beal is free to play off the ball and vary his offensive sets to the point of perfection.
Wall's dribble penetration also allows the Wizards to make use of Beal as a spot-up shooter. Never before has Wall had a reliable shooter (sorry, Nick Young) to kick out to and Beal has yet to experience life alongside a perpetual rim-attacker like Wall.
Almost needless to say, Beal should be thrilled. And according to Lee, he is:
“Sometimes, you think you’re ahead of him and ‘pyoooon!’ He’s right by you,” said rookie Bradley Beal, who anxious to finally share the floor with Wall. “It’s going to be an opportunity for us to show that we’re going to be one of the best back courts, from this year and years to come as well. I really look forward to it.”
Beal should look forward it. Free from the burden of being the primary playmaker, Beal's 14.5 shot attempts a game stand to increase. Better yet, the amount of open looks he receives from the outside are inevitably going to increase as well.
And with more shots, with more avenues of execution available for him to explore, Beal is going to thrive. His 36.7 percent shooting is destined to skyrocket and his 13.1 points per bout are fated to soar.
Because, together, Beal and Wall are virtually unguardable.
How do you defend two guards who were made for transition, one of which, in Wall, who won't let off the gas until he's at the rim, and another in Beal, who was born for the transition three?
You can't. Not effectively.
As such, Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard are going to want to make room. Wall's return is going to turn Beal into not just a viable Rookie of the Year candidate, but one of the few favorites.
Davis has battled injuries and Lillard is being tasked with directing an offense on his own, but both have had the opportunity play their natural position, play where they feel most comfortable.
Beal hasn't, and still he has achieved a moderate level of success.
That's a testament to his resolve, his versatility and his God-given abilities.
And, of course, his endless and immediate potential as John Wall's sidekick.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 9, 2013.
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