Wizards

Why Beal already believes this year's Wizards are special

Wizards
Beal

Sometimes, you just know. 

That's the sentiment Bradley Beal shared with NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller recently when describing why he feels this year's Wizards team is different than several past iterations the star shooting guard has been a part of. 

The Wizards are off to a strong start this season, sitting in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference at 11-6. They have the sixth-ranked defense in the NBA, key wins over the Heat, Hawks, Bucks and Celtics and Washington has done it with an entirely new roster with three key contributors sitting out most or all of the first 17 games. 

Even though it's early to make any sweeping declarations about the Wizards or anyone for that matter, Beal has noticed a different vibe with this year's group. 

"I guess it's always tough to before 20 games, but you feel it," Beal said. "I haven't even played well yet, and I don't think none of us have really played up to our level and our potential of where we know we can play it. And help is coming. We have so many other guys out, that just imagine with a healthy [Thomas Bryant], a healthy Rui [Hachimura], a healthy [Davis] Bertans, what that looks like. It can get scary. Once everybody gets going, we get our confidence going offensively and we're pushing, because defensively, we're good."

It's hard to categorize 23 points, six assists and five rebounds a night as, "not playing well," but Beal set a high standard for himself the last two seasons. His field goal shooting (41.9%) is down over 65 points from last season, he's shooting a career-worst 27.8% from three and is averaging a career-high in turnovers. 

 

The Wizards' best player struggling on top of Hachimura, Bertans and Bryant -- three of Washington's biggest offensive contributors the last two seasons -- missing time, it's easier to explain the Wizards' 22nd-ranked offense. Still, those problems haven't impacted Washington's record in a bad way despite a relatively tough schedule to begin the year.

"I think it's just our unity and our togetherness," Beal said. "It doesn't matter what it is on the court, we just find a way to get it done. We figure it out, we stay in it, we don't let go of the rope. That's how we are. It's not a lot of finger-pointing, not a lot of blame. It's more encouragement more, 'let's be better,' more constructive criticism than anything. That's what's been missing, that's what we need, and that's what we're kind of feeding off of. Wes [Unseld Jr.] instilling his schemes, his kind of culture on to us, we're buying into it, we're buying into his stock... This has been a great, great, great group to be around."

The depth general manager and president Tommy Sheppard added to the roster last offseason certainly plays a part in the Wizards' ability to sustain injuries to key players. Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, all acquired through the Russell Westbrook trade, have been either productive starters or in Harrell's case, second-unit destroyers.

To Beal, it's not just the quantity of bonafide NBA players the Wizards acquired over the summer, but the type of player they seemed to add an abundance of. 

"We have a group of guys who have a chip on their shoulder," Beal said. "Everybody we traded for wasn't played in their respective positions that they like, that they have the freedom that they do now. They're able to flap their wings a little bit now over here and we have a lot of guys and even coach, has a chip on his shoulder. He's been waiting 20-plus years for this opportunity."

The Wizards are a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference despite their best player struggling with his offense and injuries to three rotation players thanks to an influx of solid players with something to prove. Soon, it won't be up to our imaginations to picture what this team will look like when everyone's on the court and playing to their potential under Unseld Jr.