During his 7 year career with the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal turned himself from an above-average scorer to an NBA superstar. When first drafted to the team, Beal dealt with already-high expectations, with him being asked to fulfill Washington’s empty 2-guard spot. But through the years, Beal not only filled the position, but he produced at a level not anticipated by most.
Later on, when Beal played alongside John Wall, he was an efficient shooter but was often held back. This was due to Wall’s ball-dominant play style, in which John performed best when he could create shots for others. But with Wall injured this season, Beal can tailor the offense to his liking, based on his personal playstyle. Furthermore, most of Beal’s teammates are still young and inexperienced, so with no opposing egos wanting their own touches, Coach Brooks gave Beal the green light to play his style of offense, utilizing his maximum potential and giving the team a higher chance of success as they await the return of John Wall.
With Washington’s gameplan focused on engaging Beal’s full capabilities, Bradley has thus had a breakout season. But specifically, Brad has been on an offensive tear in the last month of action. During February, Beal took his game to an immense level, playing his heart out every night in an incredible and astonishing fashion.
As an NBA fan, Beal’s success in February can be seen through analytics and statistics:
Coming into February, Beal was already on a hot streak, averaging 37 points, 7 assists, and scoring 25+ points in 6 straight games to finish out January. Yet as February arrived, Beal’s didn’t just maintain these trends, but he enhanced them. Throughout the entire February month, Beal didn’t score a single game below 25 points, which tallied up to 17 straight games in all. While he scored on the lower end of the 25 point spectrum occasionally, Beal frequently scored on the higher end, registering 6 40+ point games through his streak.
As the All-Star Break approached, Beal was noted as being frustrated for being snubbed from the roster. He quoted, “I’m a little pissed off about it… It’s disrespectful”. But as Beal watched the All-Star festivities from his home, he took his frustrations to the court, showing why he indeed was an All-Star.
Just 2 days after the break concluded, Beal delivered 2 career-changing games. Starting on the 23rd, the Wizards played the Chicago Bulls on the first night of a back-to-back set. Beal erupted for a career-high 53 points, even though Washington ended up losing the game. The very next day, Beal exploded for another record-setting game, putting up 55 points against Milwaukee and breaking his day-old career high.
With this, Beal became just the 3rd player in history to score 53+ in consecutive games, joining Wilt Chamberlain and James Harden. But more impressive, Beal became the 1st player to score 50+ on back-to-back nights since Kobe Bryant in 2007 (both instances were on the road, too). Coincidentally, Kobe’s memorial service was held just that morning in Los Angeles. So even though Beal wasn’t able to attend the event, Beal gave his own tribute to Kobe in a not-so-accidental way.
To finish out the month, Beal became the #1 scorer in the entire league post-All-Star Break (41.2), further proving why he was snubbed. Altogether, Beal became the top scorer of February (36.2) and shifted to 2nd place for the scoring title (30.3) of the season.
One must also remember what it takes to undergo these feats given Brad’s circumstances.
To be able to perform at such an extreme level over a protracted period of time usually requires tremendous athleticism, strength or height. However, Beal doesn’t contain any of those attributes; any Wizards fan would know that Beal is short, relatively lightweight, and can’t dominate physically. So in order to produce, Beal must increase the value of his given characteristics past normality to make up for what he loses in physicality, and this can be done by boosting one’s energy level.
NBA champion Tony Massenburg explained it clearly when analyzing Beal’s game: “(People) don’t understand the energy level that it takes to play at this level as a 6’3 guy like Beal. You aren’t talking about a guy who can dominate physically because he’s 7’1 or 7’2. When you are 6’3 in the NBA, that means every night you have to put in some serious work… it’s going to make you work for everything you get”.
The energy required to perform given Beal’s size is intense enough, as Massenburg put it. But remember – this is game 58. To endure that stamina through 70% of the season with no sign of stoppage makes Beal’s recent accomplishments that much more remarkable. And with Beal having to play with such daily intensity, one might assume his legs would get tired, or his body would become prone to injury. But Beal takes pride in playing as much as possible by taking care of his body from one game to the next, which is evident by him missing only 7 games this season.
Moreover, since Beal is one of the highly respected players of the game, opponent defenses might shape their defensive scheme around limiting his production, such as pressing him up the court, doubling him off a screen or trapping him in the corner. But despite these strategies, Beal has consistently been able to make plays, get to his spots, and create for others. So to sum it up, Beal’s ability to perform at a high energy level, while handling defenses constructed around making him disintegrate, make Beal’s recent streaks in February truly unbelievable.
To summarize, Beal has had a breakout season this year, but this month, he has been on a scoring tear. Each game, he endures such a high level of energy and stamina to read the defense and take what’s given to produce for the team. Each game he plays is more of a contribution to his continuous scoring streaks, which puts his name with other historical basketball figures.
I honestly believe Beal’s All-Star snubbing was the best thing to happen to him. From the beginning of the season, Beal has given it his all toward the team, but it was clear there was still a mental blockage from reaching the next level. There have been multiple locker room conflicts and alterations throughout the season, and fans worried Beal might leave the team if nothing changed. But after the snub, Beal’s dissatisfaction fueled his energy and drive to continue to perform. The decision gave Beal that extra motivation and push to work harder, which was displayed on the court and in the numbers.
All in all, Beal ended up producing the best stretch of basketball in his career. He proved every person responsible for his snubbing wrong, and he started receiving the national recognition he deserved. And most importantly, Beal got a couple of days of rest from his normal, high-energy workload. So hopefully, the snubbing decision gave Beal the right mixture of motivation and drive, while allowing him to replenish his physical and emotional capabilities, which might give Beal the strength he needs to continue his streak, finish the season strong, and carry Washington into the playoffs.