For the next 6-8 weeks, the Washington Wizards will be without their star shooting guard, Bradley Beal.
After suffering a broken wrist in preseason action against the Charlotte Hornets, Beal – who averaged 11 points in about 26 minutes in the first two preseason games – will be shut down for the next month and some change to recover from the injury. According to The Washington Post, surgery will be needed.
This isn’t the first time in his short career that he’s missed time due to an injury. Entering just his third year, Beal — the third overall pick in 2012 — appeared in just 56 games as a rookie and 73 just a year ago. The former Florida Gator has seen his fair share of injuries and it does warrant some questions.
Especially with the Wizards announcing this Tuesday afternoon that picked up the fourth-year option on his contract, Beal’s health concerns take a bit of a forefront at this stage in his career. The last thing the Wizards need to be doing is wasting money and time on an injury prone player.
However, projected by basketball-reference.com to average nearly 18 points, four rebounds and three assists per game, it’s easy to see why Washington and team President Ernie Grunfeld are willing to take that risk.
After averaging 16 points per game in his first ever playoff appearance, Beal picked up the slack that was left by fellow backcourt-man John Wall. While the Wizards’ point guard struggled, the young shooting guard stepped up, including back-to-back 20-plus point games against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Wizards want to get back to that point, however, they need to find a way to replace the nearly 18 points that will be missing from their lineup until late-November or early-December. Like last year, Washington will need to find a way to survive the early part of their schedule without Beal.
After just 13 games in the 2013-2014 season, Beal suffered a leg fracture and missed nine games. The Wizards were, at the very least, able to hold their own and went 4-5 in his absence. Prior to his injury, though, he was averaging between 38-39 minutes per game. That dropped to around 30 minutes per game until mid-February when his workload began to increase once again.
When replacing their star, Washington won’t be able to do it with a singular player. It’s going to take a collective effort, but it is certainly something they can manage for the time being. Assuming the lineup stays healthy, this bit of adversity will be difficult, but nonetheless something they can overcome.
For head coach Randy Wittman, the obvious play makers — John Wall, Nene Hilario, Marcin Gortat — will have to step up. Wall is the bonafide leader of this team and he’ll need to contribute his expected 19 points per game and be the leader he, and everyone else, knows he can be. In the front-court, Nene and Gortat will need to play as strong as they did last year.
Over the offseason, the Wizards lost Trevor Ariza. However, they added veteran Paul Pierce, who has the ability to be a top three-point shooting small forward in the NBA. With Washington losing arguably their best three-point shooter in Beal, they’ll need Pierce to be the sharpshooter to replace that facet of Beal’s game.
In his age, Pierce has lost some athleticism. With that in mind, enter Garrett Temple and Glen Rice to provide some spark, speed and flash off the bench. They shouldn’t be asked to knock-down the long range jumpers, but being able to attack the rim off the dribble or cut to the basket are areas where they should, and can, excel.
For the Wizards, losing an integral part of their team in Beal will be difficult and could cause some problems early. However, this isn’t by any means something that will ruin their season. This team is far too talented in other areas and the added depth over the offseason should help, too.
Of course, there will be instances where having a player like Beal would have certainly altered the outcome of a game, but you can’t win them all and Washington certainly won’t. It may not be until the second half of the season that the Wizards really take off, but starting the season off without Bradley Beal is certainly no reason to hit the panic button or even begin to spell doom on this promising season.