When Bradley Beal returns -- and that could be in a few weeks or longer (probably longer based on his injury history) -- the Wizards should strongly consider bringing him off the bench.
That might be a bitter pill to swallow for a player of his caliber when he is healthy. Beal is the Wizards' best scorer and warrants double- and triple-teams because opponents fear him getting hot. Next to John Wall, they make for one of the NBA's most lethal backcourts.
But it may be time to switch up and there are good reasons for it:
- This is Beal's fourth consecutive season with a stress reaction in his lower right leg, on the small, non-weight-bearing bone (fibula). The dark spot that appeared on the MRI over the weekend is smaller than the previous three but this is troublesome. Beal will be under a minutes restriction when he returns and he'll be held to 30 minutes per game maximum based on previous limits place on him.
- Coach Randy Wittman has been in this difficult position before, tasked with winning games and needing his best players out there in crunch time but having to pull Beal late because he has reached his limit after starting. This is particularly a problem when a game goes into overtime (and this has happened). Bringing him off the bench saves Beal for when the Wizards need him most and he'd be on the floor with Wall. Even if he's not playing well he commands so much attention that it opens the floor for everyone else when buckets are hardest to come by.
- The Wizards are 3-2 with Garrett Temple in the starting lineup. Temple will get his share of wide-open looks and can hit threes and he has good chemistry with Wall. It puts more pressure on Wall offensively, but defensively Temple can cover more ground. If Otto Porter can shoot like he did with a career-high 28 points vs. Dallas, it allows Temple to do what he does best -- defend. The Wizards were 7-2 with Temple starting for Beal last season when he was out with a wrist fracture. If more offensive punch is needed, switch to Gary Neal.
- Beal is at his best when he's slicing and getting to the rim, not simply settling for jump shots. He had 21 assists in the three games that Wall missed in last season's playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged six free throw attempts, too. He can do even more of this when his minutes are controlled. In Beal's last seven games played, with the Wizards losing bodies left and right to injury, he logged 41, 42, 38, 38, 41, 40 and 39. His 36.5 minutes average was a career-high and three more than last season.
- If the Wizards are ever able to get healthy again with Nene (calf), Drew Gooden (calf) and especially Alan Anderson (ankle) who has yet to play a game, taking this path with Beal will be easier. He had his heart set on being an All-Star for the first time but that has to be put on hold. The Wizards need him at maximum efficiency to make another run at the playoffs and Beal needs to be healthy so he can prove he's a max player in time for free agency next summer. Maybe if the Wizards can get to the postseason again, after Beal has been preserved, he can go back to starter's minutes.