Wall, Beal and Wizards hitting stride
In previous years, the back-court of John Wall and Bradley Beal have been talked about as one of the best in the NBA. Last season, however; the young back-court took a step back, due to injuries that rendered their on-court chemistry to fully develop. The praise they once garnered was quickly turned into doubt and the two had to watch as other back-courts were shown more recognition.
Fast forward to this season, Wall and Beal were given the task to not only turn the Washington Wizards around, but also regain the respect they once had as a premier back-court in this league. Unfortunately, in the sixth game of the season, Beal went down with an injury that kept him out of the next three games. The player who just received a max contract in the summer was injured yet again and the injury prone narrative for Beal looked to be true… Or so we had thought!
In Beal’s first eight games back from injury, he was averaging 27 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 47 percent from three. After having a very slow start to the season, Beal was starting to look like the max player the Wizards’ envisioned he’d be. Not to be outdone by Beal, John Wall was finally starting to come into his own and posted averages of 23 points and 9 assists in the month of November.
At the end of November, the Wizards’ sat at a record of 6-11, but were starting to reassembled a consistently competitive team on a nightly basis. But it wasn’t until the month of December when the Wizards’ and their back-court started to become a true force.
To start the month off, the Wizards’ were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs 105-107 by a last second Kawhi Leonard jumper. Although the Wizards’ were defeated, a close performance against one of the top teams in the Western conference was something to hang their hats on.
Then came John Wall’s 52 point performance in a loss to the Orlando Magic. This loss can arguably be looked at as a blessing in disguise for the Wizards. After this game it was clear that the Wizards’ couldn’t rely on one player to win them the game and also needed to sell out on the defensive end. It was the wake up call the Wizards’ needed, because what resulted after this game was the best basketball the Wizards’ have played thus far.
To illustrate, the Wizards have won five out of their last seven games with key wins over the Bucks, Pistons, Hornets and a signature win over the Clippers. These wins are thanks in large part to their defensive effort, but more importantly the back-court playing at an All-star level. Fueled by Wall’s 26.1 PPG on a 48/37/78 split, the most eye raising stat is Wall’s 2.9 steals per game. It’s Wall’s ability to frustrate opposing guards and force turnovers that have led to Washington’s new defensive prowess.
But most notably it’s been the play of Bradley Beal that has turned heads in the last seven games for Washington. Shooting 41 percent from three, Beal has used the defenses respect for his three point shot to his advantage and has aggressively attacked the rim when coming off screens. Beal is actively looking for his shot and is no longer settling for long two attempts like he has in previous years. Beal’s aggression has blossomed his game and has seen him put together five 30+ point games in 30 days. To put that into context, Beal only had four 30+ games his first four years in the league. Beal’s game has come full circle and at the right time for the Washington Wizards.
How is Wall and Beal’s month compared to other back-courts in the league, you ask? The below chart takes a look at the cumulative stats of various back-courts in the league, for the month of December.
Looking back, I said these two guards needed to get back the respect they once had as one of the premiere back-courts in the league. With their performances in the month of December, the back-court of Wall and Beal have been one of the top in the league. The Washington Wizards will continue to trend in the right direction if this play by their back-court continues. For the meantime, however; it’s safe to say John Wall and Bradley Beal have had a pretty good December.