Since John Wall’s return to the Wizards lineup, the team has gained the confidence needed to turn their season around–a season that a few weeks ago was the biggest laughing stock of the league. Laden with first round draft choices and overpaid vets, the Wizards seemed a lost cause with no potential to grow.
Due to a rash of injuries to almost every member of the starting roster, lesser known players were forced to step up.
That includes Wizards 2012 top draft pick Bradley Beal. Beal has answered the bell in big way. He’s learned to adjust on the fly and his game reflects it. He was has stepped into the starting lineup and plays more minutes. Scoring has dramatically increased for the 19-year-old rookie out of Florida.
Beal appears to have found his comfort zone, and with Wall alongside of him, is a dominant player who can take over a game offensively while holding his own on the defensive end. Beal was sidelined for five games with a wrist injury suffered after a hard fall against the Nuggets in Denver. In the second game after his return, Beal came off the bench and set a new career high with a 28-point effort against the Bucks.
The first game following the All-Star break Beal returned to the starting lineup and lead all scorers with 25 points.
Beal has brought the threat of a consistent outside shot to the Wizards, helping create more space for Wall to operate. Beal and Wall complement each other almost perfectly and stress defenses in a variety of ways.
Beal’s being rewarded for his play, selected by Charles Barkley to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend. There, “Team Chuck” defeated team “Team Shaq” by an impressive margin. Beal started the game, played 22 minutes, and finished with 12 points.
Beal also received the honor of being named the Eastern Conference NBA Rookie of the Month for his play in both December and January. Beal is now the second player in franchise history to win the award more than once, John Wall being the first. In January, Beal became the first rookie, since Stephen Curry in 2010, to make at least 50% of his three point attempts over an entire calender month.
Friday night Wall and Beal helped lead the Wizards to their second win against the Denver Nuggets, each registering a double-double. Wall finished with 14 points, 10 assists, and 3 blocks—tying a career high—while Beal came away with the second double-double of his young career, scoring 17 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
The team’s reunion of projected starters back on the floor has elevated their level of play. It’s no coincidence Wall’s health and the improvements in his teammates’ numbers coincide.
As new rotations gained chemistry, Jordan Crawford’s playing time diminished. Crawford, arguably the team’s most valuable player in the absence of many key personnel, found his new role difficult to accept. The shooting guard’s attitude was a distraction and the Wizards were all but forced to move him before the trade deadline. The Wizards couldn’t get much in return for Crawford: marginal cap space. This is yet another instance of the Wizards trading away a promising young player—once hoped to be a core piece of the team’s future—as a result of the player’s public displeasure with team management.
Wall has solidified himself as the unquestioned leader of this team on and off the court. Beal is becoming the player the Wizards hoped for when they selected him at number three overall in the draft. Shooters like Martell Webster have noticed an increase in open looks and shooting percentages, and a healthy Nene has been a revelation for Emeka Okafor’s play.
Because the Wizards started the season so poorly, playoffs seem to be out of the question. But, this team has proven they can compete with the elite on any given night.