With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks,CSNWashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.
Paul Pierce, as expected, became the Wizards go-to option late in games during the playoffs. With the Truth gone, who steps into that role this season or will this be by committee?
J. Michael: John Wall and Bradley Beal. This was made clear within the organization when Pierce left in free agency. While they’d have liked to have kept Pierce, this will be Wall’s sixth season and Beal’s fourth. They’re supposed to be the future and an elite backcourt. Provided Beal gets his extension before the tip of this season, both will be making well more than $100 million-plus combined.
Almost everyone else is complementary. The flood of shotmakers such as Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and Drew Gooden help spread the floor to allow Wall and Beal to work. Wall averaged a double-double with a broken left wrist in three games vs. the Atlanta Hawks. Beal had 22 assists in the three games that Wall missed. It’s not all about hitting shots. They now have the teammates to set up to make them when defenses scheme to take them away.
Ben Standig: I agree with Wall and Beal. However, it just can't be the Wall and Beal we watched during the regular season.
Washington repeatedly put Wall in isolation sets and the All-Star point guard frequently struggled in such spots. The primary issue is his lack of a consistent perimeter shot. Defenders will always guard the blinding quick Wall for the drive, but especially if he continues shooting 30 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
As for Beal, his outside shot is textbook quality. However, the rising fourth-year guard's ball-handling needs work. Putting Beal in the iso situation essentially provides Washington the opposite problem of when Wall is in that decision-maker role. Adding to the dilemma, Beal, Washington's top shooter, can't drive-and-dish with passes to himself, and Wall certainly isn't a catch-and-shoot option.
Now for the positives. Beal handled the lead guard role with aplomb when Wall missed time during the playoffs with a fractured wrist. That version can get the job done in late game scenarios. As for Wall, he's immensely talented. Like Beal, Wall shows a willingness to take the final shot. That trait isn't always found even the best players. The Wizards also added shooters in Jared Dudley and Gary Neal plus the effective Alan Anderson. Putting some combination of those players plus Otto Porter or Drew Gooden on the court ensures Washington can spread the floor, which in theory opens up additional space for Wall and Beal. We'll see if they step. Good chance they do. With Pierce gone, they'll certainly have opportunities.