Leading up to to last year’s draft, the Wizards found themselves in a precarious situation. Everyone knew that Anthony Davis was going #1, but no one knew whether the Bobcats would take Marcus Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal. Surprise surprise, the Michael Jordan-led team made the wrong pick again.
With John Wall starting the season injured and Jordan Crawford being Jordan Crawford, Beal was thrust into the role of a go-to scorer. Initially, Beal struggled in this role. His shot wasn’t falling, he looked uncomfortable, and Wizards fans were beginning to think that Ernie Grunfeld had bungled another draft pick. Then John Wall returned and with a backcourt of Wall and Beal, Wizards fans got a glimpse of the future, and what a bright future it is.
Even with the Wizards beset by injuries all year long, Beal thrived when he finally got play next to Wall. He thrived so much that the Wizards felt confident enough to bench and trade the last locker room cancer, Crawford. We watched his scoring average rise every month until he got injured at the end of the season. We watched him play lockdown defense at times, and we watched him hit a game winner over Oklahoma City.
We are watching a superstar in the making.
Scoring: This is what Brad does best. Simply put, he knows how to put the ball in the basket. Whether it’s slashing to the rim (a la Dwyane Wade), or stroking it from deep (a la Ray Allen), Beal has all the tools to become a superstar in this league. I’ll chalk it up to him being a rookie, but Brad took a beating every time he went into the lane and didn’t get to the line as often as this writer thought he should. That’s something that should improve as he continues his ascension, just as it did with Wall. I predict Beal will average at least 20 ppg next season because he knows how to put the ball in the basket.
Court Awareness: There were times when Bradley Beal looked like a rookie overwhelmed by the speed of the NBA, and there were times when he looked like a vet who was completely in control of the game. He moves very well without the ball and is adept at coming off of screens for the pullup jumper, which might be the prettiest shot in basketball outside of Steph Curry. I have also been impressed with his basketball acumen. He’s not just a freakish athlete, he’s a freakish athlete with a high basketball IQ (a la John Wall). As you can see I’m very high on this backcourt.
Offensive Value: As I stated earlier, offense is what he does. He’s shown that he is capable of taking and making the big shots. Although they didn’t lay a ton of games together, John Wall’s development into a scorer hasn’t taken a tremendous amount of pressure off of Beal. Wall is not a natural high volume scorer, rather he’s much more comfortable being the facilitator and if this team is going to take the next step, Beal will have to increase his scoring output. I have no doubt that he will.
Defensive Value: While undersized at the 2 guard position, what Beal lacks in height he makes up with strength and toughness. He’s shown that he’s not afraid to mix it up and get physical. Averaging about one steal per game, he definitely has room for improvement, but no one expects him to become a regular on the All-Defensive team.
Hustle/Effort: Brad took a beating this season. There were at least five times this season that he hit the floor with a sickening thud, but he kept getting back up. The result of that beating was missing 26 games this year but you have to appreciate this kid’s moxie. While most rookies eventually hit the proverbial ‘rookie wall’, Beal actually improved as the season progressed in spite of all of the punishment he took. You never catch him dogging it on defense which was something that plagued the Wizards teams of old.
Basketball Swag: Beal seems like genuinely good kid. He’s a soft-spoken, respectful, and humble young man. You don’t see much “swag” from him in the form of trash talking or showboating, but he let’s his game talk for him….roll the tape!
Final Grade: For the season, Brad gets a B with a note to the parent that if he keeps up the hard work, he could be top of the class. Beal struggled in the beginning of the season and struggled with injuries at the end of the season. However, when he was good, boy was he good. My heart wants to give him an A+ based on potential alone. I believe he will be the best player in his draft class — a true compliment considering I happen to think that Anthony Davis and Damien Lillard are pretty good themselves.