I thought I had deja vu Monday nigh when I got a notification from ESPN that Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards had a career high night on 50+ points.
But it was true, Beal followed up a 53 point outing against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday (then his career high) with a 55 point performance (now his career high) against the best freaking team in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks.
That’s 50 points in back-to-back games, no easy feat especially considering these games were literally on consecutive days—no one’s done that since Kobe Bryant (on 2/24 no less).
That’s 108 points in two games. That’s 108 points in two days. Really, it’s 108 points in around 26 hours. It’s a lot of points, in a short period of time, that’s my point
But it’s not news that Bradley Beal is good. He’s averaging 30.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6 assists this season, shooting 45.7% from the floor and 33% from deep. With teammate and former All-Star John Wall having been sidelined with injury since December 2018, Beal has been forced to take on a much larger role for his squad, and he has thrived. He has gone from underappreciated second-guy star to bonafide, indisputable superstar…who is still massively underappreciated.
Why does no one care that Bradley Beal is having a season that is broadly, historically speaking, on the MVP caliber? He was snubbed in the All-Star Game during the best season of his career after making the exhibition the past two seasons. All of this in spite of being a top vote getter in the player vote, and despite the fact that Beal is likely a lock for one of the lower two All-NBA teams—I can’t name six guards who have been better than Bradley Beal this season.
The fact is, Bradley Beal is having one of the best seasons a shooting guard could possibly have. So why don’t the fans care, enough to make his aforementioned 50 point back-to-backs a major story, or to make Bradley Beal a household name, or to vote him into the All Star game?
A few reasons.
The first one is exemplified by the same two game run that I opened this article discussing. The Wizards lost both Sunday’s game against the Bulls and Monday’s to the Bucks (albeit that was an exciting overtime loss, it was still a loss.) Quite simply, it’s harder to care about Beal’s amazing play when it’s not culminating in wins for his club. That’s not to say that the Wizards’ lack of success is his fault, he plays his heart out every night and is clearly a positive impact player. But rather it’s the opposite, I’m blaming the Wizards for Beal’s lack of success.
Beal is unquestionably an elite player—but to what end? What bearing does that have in his team’s, and his own, future?
That’s another issue—it’s hard to believe in a future in which Beal’s play matters because it’s hard to imagine a future in which the Wizards are successful. It has been decades since anyone truly thought that this franchise had a shot at an NBA championship—since before they were the Wizards, since before they were in Washington.
The Wizards are associated with Michael Jordan pissing away the last few years of his career and crushing Kwame Brown’s prospects in the process. The Wizards are associated with wasting the best years of Gilbert Arenas’ career. The Wizards are associated with the sheer disappointment of John Wall crumpling under injuries, or with decades of baffling decisions by former GM (thank god they finally put him out of his misery) Ernie Grunfeld. The Wizards are the only team in the league who can challenge the Knicks for the most pathetic dumpster fire award.
These disappointments, shortcomings, and failures have come to define this franchise, and the last couple especially have completely overshadowed Bradley Beal’s rise to superstardom and throw doubt on any hopes of him achieving something greater while still with the franchise.
It does not bring me joy to say any of this, except for a little bit. Seriously though, I would love to see a successful team built around Bradley Beal with Beal still wearing the red, white, and blue—but it’s hard to see a future where the Wizards find the flexibility to make any significant improvements in their time remaining with Beal. Yes, he signed a short term contract extension that keeps him on this deal until 2023 in October, but how much longer can this superstar let himself be held back by this organization? He’s given them 7 years, isn’t that enough?
The Wizards have stolen Bradley Beal’s past and threaten to deny him the future he deserves. I would not be surprised to see Beal become the next superstar to publicly demand a trade in the Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis tradition. Bradley Beal deserves to be in the core of a real contender before he turns 30, and to be honest, the Wizards must lean into a genuine rebuild and gather assets. It’s the best option for player and team. I’d keep an eye on number 3 going into this offseason, if not at next year’s trade deadline.
Image Source: AP Images
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com unless otherwise stated. All contract information courtesy of spotrac.com.