Wizards

Bradley Beal 'very impressed' with Wizards young trio

Wizards
Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura

Wizards star Bradley Beal has been sidelined for nearly two months with a wrist injury. And unfortunately for Washington, the team's playoff hopes have slowly dwindled during that span without their best player.

However, Beal's injury has allowed head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to give the Wizards' younger players more minutes as the franchise focuses on player development for the remainder of the season. 

On Monday, Beal joined NBC Sports Washington's Wizards Postgame Live and said he's liked what he's seen from the franchise's young pieces, particularly Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura -- Washington's three most recent first-round picks.

"I'm very impressed with all three of them," Beal said.

Beal spoke at length praising each of the three players. He began with Kispert, whom the Wizards selected 15th overall last offseason, and spoke highly of the way the Gonzaga product arrived in Washington.

"Corey came in as a very mature rookie. He wasn't the average young guy, deer in the headlights as a rookie," Beal said. "He came in ready to go. He came in knowing the game, understanding the feel and the flow and what we wanted him and needed him to do."

At the beginning of the season, Kispert was stuck at the bottom of Washington's depth chart. During the first month and a half of the season, the rookie averaged fewer than 10 minutes per contest.

Yet, Kispert has earned the trust of Unseld Jr. and earned more and more playing time as the season has gone on. He's increased his scoring average each month. In March, Kispert is averaging 12.0 points per game and has reached double figures in six of Washington's last seven games.

 

"He understands that his job is to shoot the ball. When it touches your hands, Corey, you shoot the basketball. That's what we want you to do," Beal said. "We want you to continue to make plays, continue to be aggressive and continue to push yourself on the defensive end. He tries. He gets out and runs. He competes at a high level. I love everything he's doing."

Beal then moved on the Avdija, Washington's first-rounder in 2020, whom he applauded for his versatility and willingness to try new things every time he hits the floor.

"Deni's constantly getting better. It's so tough because Deni is versatile," Beal said. "We're trying to put him at the 3, the 4, sometimes we're putting him at the 1. We're moving Deni all over the place. I love the fact that he's open to it."

Although Avdija's role has constantly changed throughout the season -- he's even been in and out of the rotation at times -- Beal has been impressed with the second-year wing's openness to doing whatever he's asked.

"He's not sitting there saying 'I can't do this or 'I can't do that.' He doesn't put himself in a box," Beal said. "He's a willing learner. He asks a million questions and he accepts these challenges. I always consider him as one of our better defenders. He's very big, he has great size and he utilizes it. ... The future is super bright for him."

To finish the segment, Beal moved on to Hachimura, a third-year pro whom Washington's star shooting guard has played alongside most of the three players. Beal said he's been most impressed with Hachimura's growth of the three young players, especially considering the lengthy mental health absence he had to begin the season.

"I'd say I've been the most impressed with [Rui] out of all three with the [number] of games he's missed to coming back in and the impact he's had," Beal said. "He came in and he didn't really lose a step."

One specific area Hachimura has significantly improved in this season has been his three-point shooting. After shooting 28.7% as a rookie and 32.8% last year from behind the arc, Hachimura has been knocking down 3-pointers at a 48.7% clip this season on 2.5 attempts per game.

That drastic improvement has specifically impressed Beal, who says he constantly has to tell his teammate to shoot the ball more.

"He's shooting the lights out of the ball. He's shooting at a very high clip," Beal said. "We tell him he needs to be more aggressive and shoot more. But it's been just so impressive to see his game continue to evolve, continue to see his confidence continue to grow."

 

Although Beal is impressed with each of Washington's young wings, he admitted on Monday there are still other areas of the roster he feels the team needs to improve in moving forward to become a contender. 

Nonetheless, Beal likes what he's seen from the Wizards' young core. For Kispert, Avdija, and Hachimura, playing well during the homestretch of the 2021-22 season could be a big factor in Beal's decision whether to commit to the Wizards long-term again this summer.