September 21, 2019

Washington Wizards 2015-16 Season Position Outlook: Shooting Guards

The shooting guard position for the Washington Wizards inevitably begins and ends on the performance of fourth-year man Bradley Beal. Beal is one of the most talented young athletes in the NBA, and has drawn comparisons to future Hall of Famers like Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade. He has a sweet shooting stroke and has shown more aggressiveness on defense and off the dribble, especially in last year’s playoffs.

Unfortunately, a couple of factors have led to the former University of Florida star to still be known as an “up-and-comer” rather than a full-fledged star like his backcourt counterpart, John Wall. First, nagging injuries have cut into each of his first three seasons. Beal has missed 54 out of 246 games since 2013, and as it normally goes in the NBA, injuries can be killer to a player’s stat line. Beal has been relegated to minute limits and coming off the bench at times, and his career points average of 15.6 could be much higher if he were in the lineup on a more consistent basis.

In addition, Beal has been criticized for his passive play, namely not taking enough 3-pointers, not playing stellar enough defense, and not taking the ball to the rack with authority. Some of these criticisms are not exactly fair, but Beal has publicly come out saying that he is improving them anyway. Leading up to this season, he has been quoted as saying “We want to eliminate those long 2s as much as possible,” and that his personal goal is to make the NBA’s all-defensive team. Beal showed off his little-known defensive skills in shutting down Kyle Korver in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and was productive on the offensive end, averaging over 23 points over 10 postseason contests.

As is the case with many players this year, Beal will be playing for a contract extension, as next year is his last remaining on his rookie contract. Beal will have extra motivation from both that and the bad taste that remains in Washington’s mouth after the 2015 postseason. In theory, he should benefit greatly with the Randy Wittman’s supposed faster, more efficient offense which we saw against the Raptors and Hawks last year. Wizards’ management expects him to perform like a Klay Thompson and be able to finish both behind the arc and in the paint to really twist the dagger on teams that are uber-focused on John Wall. It is a lofty challenge, but anyone who has watched this team over the past few years knows that he is capable. This kid has that type of talent, and while we have seen only flashes, 2015-16 is the year for him to completely break out.

Backing up Bradley at the 2-guard position will be Gary Neal and Garrett Temple. Neal, a Baltimore native who played at Towson University (about an hour from the Verizon Center), brings experience and consistent 3-point shooting to this Wizards team. He has averaged 10 points per game in five NBA seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets, and Minnesota Timberwolves. He also played in Europe for four seasons before joining the Spurs as a classic Gregg Popovich diamond in the rough in 2011. Neal will spell Beal at times, provide on-court and off-court leadership, and hopefully continue to make shots from behind the arc. He has a 38% career 3-point shooting average, and can create plays off the bench when guys like Wall, Beal, and Porter need a breather.

Garrett Temple will also provide a spark off the bench, just as he has for the past 3 seasons with Washington. Temple, an LSU product, is another journeyman with five years in the Association. He benefits from a longer, thin frame (6-6, 190) to disrupt passing lanes and create plays. He has only played 14 minutes per game in his three years in Washington, but has filled in admirably at the 2 and even point guard at times. However, Wiz fans hope to keep seeing Temple in his secondary role, because if he is playing major minutes, it probably means someone in the Wizards’ staple of guards is injured.

In closing, the shooting guard position could be one of the Wiz’s great strengths this year if Beal stays healthy. Expect him to achieve some career milestones (perhaps 20+ PPG?) and build off of the great performance he had in 10 postseason contests last year. Behind him, there is a considerable drop off in talent, but the experience, shooting ability, and defense is still there with Gary Neal and Garrett Temple. With the way that Randy Wittman wants this team to play, it will not make much sense to put two point guards in the game like he did late last year with Wall and Sessions. John Wall distributing the ball in a new-and-improved fast-paced offense will allow a playmaker like Beal to shine, and the 2-guard position to be as productive as any on this team.

About Seamus Kane

Seamus Kane is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Wizards. A native of Silver Spring, MD, Seamus grew up in the area all his life rooting for the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Caps, and Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in American History and now lives in Washington, DC. His favorite DC sports legend is Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and his favorite DC sports moment was Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, a game which he attended. You can follow Seamus on Twitter @ShamelessKane

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