Wall, Wizards hitting their stride
By JJ Regan
The Wizards may be becoming a competitive basketball team, but the players still have a long way to go to gain national respect.
While everyone knows how good John Wall is, few seem to want to recognize just how good rookie Bradley Beal has been. Sports Illustrated recently published their mid-season report card and only one of the five writers mentioned Beal as one of the top rookies.
You can’t really dispute Damian Lillard as the leading rookie with what he has accomplished in Portland so far this season. It may seem trivial to argue who should be the second best rookie at midseason, but someone needs to defend Beal when he’s being overlooked for the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond.
Beal is averaging more points (13.6) and assists (2.6) than both Kidd-Gilchrist (10.1 p, 1.7 a) and Drummond (7.5 p, 0.4 a) by a sizable margin and he’s doing it on a team that has been decimated by injuries. Beal was brought into Washington to be a perimeter shooter, but it’s hard to get open looks when the biggest offensive weapon on the floor is Jordan Crawford. Teams have to account for players like Wall at all times. Crawford does not have the same effect on a defense.
Because of Wall’s injury, Beal was asked to take on a larger role than both he and the Wizards probably envisioned for him this season. He struggled early to adapt to the NBA game, but he has made marked improvement over the past few weeks and looks poised for a big second half with Wall back on the floor.
Beal’s contributions are largely ignored by most experts because of the Wizards’ early record and his high spot in the draft. Being drafted third overall carries with it very lofty expectations. The Wizards, however, did not need a superstar to build around; they needed a role player to help fill a need. They knew what they were getting and in many ways he’s exceeded their expectations.
Kidd-Gilchrist and Drummond have both had exceptional rookie seasons, but Beal is putting up better offensive stats than both. The Wizards may have been the worst team in the NBA to start the season, but it was not because of Beal.
With Wall back in the lineup, I expect Beal to thrive playing the role he was expecting to play all along. If he continues to improve, he’ll eventually gain the respect he already deserves.