Even after Beal’s injury, Unseld Jr. thinks Wizards can ‘compete’

Bradley Beal

Before the Wizards learned Tuesday that star shooting guard Bradley Beal would be missing the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his wrist, they were already facing a difficult decision at Thursday's 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline.

Washington had lost nine of its last 11 games, dropping to 24-29 on the year and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The team entered this season with hopes of improving on its 8th-place finish in the East from a year ago, but its play leading up to the deadline didn’t back up those aspirations. GM Tommy Sheppard was going to be tasked with deciding whether to further build around Beal or start preparing for a future without him.

Now, Beal is sidelined for the rest of the year and he may never play another game for them if he declines his player option this summer and goes elsewhere in free agency. The Wizards still hope to convince Beal to sign a long-term extension, though he’s expressed that he wants to see the team win more before he does. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. told 106.7 The Fan’s Sports Junkies on Wednesday morning that he thinks the Wizards can still do exactly that.

“It wasn’t necessarily a complete surprise, but we were hoping for good news,” Unseld Jr. said of Beal’s diagnosis. “Brad, he’s a tough guy. I know, given an opportunity, he would love to compete. We gave it the week after the injury to work through some things, reduce the swelling, get some mobility and flexibility back into that joint and he just realized it’s not going to work.


“It’s frustrating but it’s not the end of the world. We’ve played, at times, very well without him and of course you never want to be without your best player for this long. But we’ve seen this group be able to be competitive and we anticipate that will continue.”

The Wizards are 7-6 without Beal on the floor this season, compared to 17-23 when he has suited up. Point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has notably performed much better in games Beal has missed — though the same has been true for Beal without Dinwiddie on the floor.

Unseld Jr. has also acknowledged that the Wizards have been using too many players in their rotation, a product of a team with a lot depth getting players back from injury around the same time. Beal’s injury will allow Unseld Jr. to give his minutes to other players that have been playing well such as rookie shooting guard Corey Kispert.

“We’ll have opportunities,” Unseld Jr. said. “Obviously, with Brad’s absence I think that’s going to allow for more minutes at the 2-3, 1-2-3 position and I think Corey’s earned some of those. I think it’s also an issue playing those three bigs kinda compressed the backcourt a bit. With Daniel [Gafford] out right now it’s just [Thomas Bryant] and [Montrezl Harrell].

“So there’s more minutes for those smalls to divvy up. We’ll see how it goes and I think it’s one of those things you read the flow of the game and see what you need in that moment but their development, we can’t stifle that. I think it’s important for them to get those real-time minutes, but we also want to be competitive and try to win games.”

With Beal out, a deadline teardown could make sense for the Wizards given the uncertainty of their star’s future and their current place in the standings. However, Unseld Jr. told the Junkies that the team is still looking at ways to add to their current roster with the caveat of not sacrificing the organization’s future.

“Any opportunity we can [find] to help bolster this roster, you take that within context,” Unseld Jr. said. “We’re not going to leverage our future for the right now but if there’s an opportunity to upgrade, I think we’ll do that. But I don’t look at it as necessarily a given. We’ll have to look through a lot of things but we have enough. We’ve shown it. We have enough depth, we just have to get back on track, recenter and play our brand of basketball.”