The next step never took place because Bradley Beal rarely stayed on the court long enough with John Wall in what was supposed to be a breakout season for them to solidify themselves as an elite backcourt that belonged in the same conversation with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
"It’s been a rocky year in terms of injuries, offense changing, getting used to playing with new guys on the team and adjusting to a few things," said Beal, who appeared in a career-low 55 games in his fourth season, before the Wizards' final game of the season that ended 41-41. "We both should’ve had a better year than we had. We should’ve carried the team a little better than what we did. We both can attest to it."
Golden State has the NBA's best backcourt of Curry and Thompson, and that's not up for debate. But the Wizards had an argument, particularly after last year's playoff run when Wall and Beal dominated Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Ratpors) in the first round and then locked down Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver (Hawks), that they were elite. The shined against all four of those All-Stars on the brightest of stages.
Wall averaged a double-double when he returned to play two games vs. the Hawks with one hand because of a broken wrist. Beal averaged 25 points and totaled 22 assists in the three games that Wall missed. This likely was a team that was headed to the conference finals if not for Wall's injury.
In their first five games together to start the 2015-16 season, Beal scored 24 points (twice), 25 and 26 (twice) as the Wizards were 3-2. He made half of his 32 three-point attempts. Then came the flurry of injuries that began with a left shoulder contusion on Nov. 10 and the fourth stress reaction in his lower right leg exactly a month later that kept him away 16 games. When he returned, Beal was coming off the bench and playing under a minutes restriction.
Wall spent more time on the court with Garrett Temple and Gary Neal than Beal. Beal only started 35 times, also a career low, and just 32 with Wall.
Before the Wizards played at the Brooklyn Nets on April 11, Wall and Beal hung out together. Although their chemistry is worth questioning, there doesn't appear to be any major issues between them though both have a long way to go in the leadership department. When Beal called out his teammates for underperforming in a back-breaking loss at the Sacramento Kings which all but ruined their playoff chances, Wall backed him up. They have to assume more control of the locker room to be successful.
"I think we're in a great place. We do a lot of talking, a lot of communication," Wall said. "If he didn't get hurt he was on pace to probably be an All-Star also. We would've been a better team. You take just about any team that has a main backcourt and you take Klay Thompson away from Steph for about 30 games it would be different."
In fact, Golden State looked beatable in Game 1 of their playoff series vs. the Houston Rockets on Saturday when Curry tweaked his ankle and left the game. They committed 11 of their 18 turnovers in the third quarter. The Warriors had a comfortable lead but were much easier to defend.
The same goes for the Wizards without Beal commanding double-teams. Wall averaged career highs of 19.9 points, 10.2 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals but wore down. Beal posted career highs of 17.4 points and 45% from the field. These stats prove that numbers in and of themselves don't prove anything. It's about the entire picture and the Wizards with this backcourt remain unfinished, but maybe it improves with a new offensive system now that Randy Wittman has been fired as coach.
"As far as us two together it wasn’t anything unusual. There was no beef or anything like that," Beal, who is a restricted free agent this summer, said of his relationship with Wall. "We just didn’t play as well as we were supposed to. I think sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we tried to overdo it especially if one’s not playing and the other one is. There’s a lot of things that factor into it. Overall, it’s no excuse. We both should’ve had a better year than we had."