When the Washington Wizards fell to the Utah Jazz on Feb. 29, it marked the end of what was a frustrating month for the organization. The Wizards suffered their fourth loss in five games and ended the month with a 5-6 record. But aside from their on-court production, what stood out the most was the unappreciation for Bradley Beal.
In the midst of a 129-119 loss to the Jazz, Beal’s performance inside the Vivint Smart Home Arena fell under the radar. He erupted for a game-high 42 points shooting 51.2% from the field, 40.0% from behind the arc, to go along with 10 assists and five rebounds. It was the 10th game of the season Beal tallied 40 or more points, but his stellar play led to an All-Star snub based off the Wizards’ lack of success.
Although he was not acknowledged as one of the NBA’s 24 best players, Beal’s absence from the midseason classic in Chicago does not hinder the fact how he has established himself as the second-best shooting guard in the league.
Prior to the suspension of the NBA due to the on-going pandemic of COVID-19, Beal was having the best individual season of his career. In comparison to the previous year, the two-time All-Star increased his scoring margin by five (25.6 ppg) averaging a career-best 30.5 points per game — placing second behind only James Harden (34.4 ppg).
In February, he quietly put together one of the best scoring outputs in recent memory but fell short of receiving the honor as the Eastern Conference Players of the Month (Jayson Tatum). Beal averaged an NBA-best 36.2 points and put the league on notice with back-to-back games scoring 50 or more points.
One night after setting a then career-high 53 points in a defeat to the Bulls, the 26-year-old St. Louis native registered a double-nickel in a 137-134 overtime loss against the Milwaukee Bucks. Inside the Capital One Arena, Beal left the crowd in awe shooting 57.6% from the floor while connecting on eight out of his 13 shot attempts (61.5%) from behind the arc.
Beal’s 55-point performance on Feb. 24 should have solidified his case as the league’s second-best two-guard. He torched the Bucks a month earlier with a 47-point outing (41.9% FG, 44.4% 3PT), and is currently averaging 40.6 ppg against the league’s No. 1 rank defense.
It’s unfortunate with the weight of the franchise solely on his shoulders, Beal’s recognition as an elite player has gone undervalued. Excluding Harden from the list, no one at Beal’s position would be able to lift the Wizards out from mediocracy, and in some cases has done less with more (Devin Booker).
Klay Thompson and CJ McCollum would put up an extraordinary scoring display if placed in Beal’s situation, but neither could obtain the high praise as the NBA’s second-best shooting guard without help from their All-Star teammates, Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard.
Its been nearly 14 months since John Wall last took the court, and Beal has managed to elevate his game beyond his scoring to keep the Wizards competitive. While staying true to his “everybody eats” approach adopted in 2018, Beal took on full responsibility to become the primary playmaker for the Wall-less Wizards — dishing a career-best 6.1 assists per game.
In what was deemed a lost season with Wall sidelined for the year, Beal has Washington in striking distance to make the playoffs sitting six games back of the eighth seed Magic — despite a 24-40 record.
If the Wizards had any relevance in 2020, Beal would have been a top-tear candidate for league MVP honors, yet had to watch in agony as Domantas Sabonis and Bam Adebayo earn All-Star nods due to the success from their respective teams. However, given everything he has gone through competing without Wall and a subpar supporting cast, there is enough evidence to crown Beal as the league’s second-best shooting guard for the remainder of the season and beyond.
(Photo Credit: Nick Wass, AP)
Enjoyed what you just read? Stay up to date on all things NBA and more by subscribing to You Can Argue That Sports and receive notifications of new posts and podcasts by email.