Beal taking it slow as he works to come back
Making up for a massive - and we do mean massive - oversight last season, ESPN ranked John Wall No. 5 among the top NBA players under the age of 25. The 2012 version inexplicably did not include the Wizards point guard, who at that moment of that list's release was sidelined with a knee injury.
Perhaps injury explains why the panel somehow overlooked Bradley Beal altogether. Otherwise this seems like another case of here we go again.
Let's start with the positive. Overlooked last year for the likes of Ed Davis, Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, only Anthony Davis, Paul George, Andre Drummond and James Harden ranked above Wall this time. Names right behind Wall, Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 overall picks selected one year before and after Washington took the former Kentucky star first in 2010.
"Wall is beginning to fulfill the promise that got him drafted first overall in 2010 (amazing what being healthy can do for your game's perception). He's still not a consistent enough shooter, but he's improved tremendously, and that has opened up passing opportunities for him. Defensively, he has the tools to be the antidote to the league's class of super-athletic PGs."
"Improving his perimeter shot is a no-brainer, even just a midrange jump shot over smaller defenders, but he has work to do to become a better transition finisher as well. As perhaps the fastest ball-pusher in the league, Wall has many chances to outrace defenders but he often struggles to focus on making the shot rather than drawing contact or getting it off cleanly."
"Point guards tend to peak late, so Wall might still have room to grow after emerging as an All-Star caliber player this season."
Now, Beal. Before we dive into the list for comparisons with the Wizards' second-year guard, one that Charles Barkley wants the ball in his hands late in games, here's the stated criteria for said list:
This season, we ranked our top 25 under 25 based not on who they are now, but who they can become. It's not solely based on potential as much as the projection on how much of that full potential can be reached. In a sense, this ranking represents how these players would be drafted if each was available in the draft right now.
To be clear: This is a ranking of how we would order these players if we were starting a franchise and would have them for the next several years, not just this season.
So, Beal is not penalized for having missed seven of the Wizards 20 games, in theory. Apparently he's not credited for leading the team in scoring either.
However, before this rant goes into overdrive, let me note this: the NBA has lots of young talent. Unlike last year's list, there are no obvious players to dismiss.
Those ranked 21 to 25 - Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic, Ricky Rubio, Jonas Valanciunas, John Henson - are legitimate building blocks if not quite a bit more. Now, would I prefer Beal to say Bledsoe (11) or Gordon Hayward (19), sure, though the other side has arguments.
One of the three panelists put Beal on his list. One has to believe Beal not playing created an out of sight, out of mind scenario for other voters, right?
Let's note that this is actually a rather impressive list, or rather shows the amount of deep young talent in the NBA right now.