Washington Wizards: With Kevin Love Out, Bradley Beal Should Be An NBA All-Star

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is playing at a high level and should replace Kevin Love in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.

On Tuesday morning, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that All-Star forward Kevin Love underwent a scope on his left knee and and is expected to miss the next six weeks. That estimation would have Love return around March 28.  

That time frame means that Love should return with less than three weeks left in the regular season, allowing him to get back into game shape before the playoffs begin.  

In addition to potentially opening up the conference’s number one seed for the taking, this is important in the short term as it means that there is an open spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star Team.  

When injury replacements are made for the All-Star Game, commissioner Adam Silver is in charge of making the decision. Looking at his available options, it seems he really only has a two legitimate choices, Celtics center Al Horford, and Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal.  

Horford and Beal are having successful seasons for top teams in the conference, while most of the other options wouldn’t seem to be options with their team’s performances.

The Knicks are a mess, but have two popular players in Carmelo and Porzingis.  

The Heat won 12 straight games, but still remain outside the playoff race, eliminating Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside.  

Sixers center Joel Embiid had a strong case, with his numbers and team’s performance when he plays, but he’s currently injured.  

Hawks center Dwight Howard has had a solid season for the Hawks, but hasn’t been better significantly than Horford.  

At this point in the season, I’d put Horford and Beal as the front runners. So which one will get it?

Something to consider is that the commissioner has no requirement to replace the injured player with someone at the same position (ie. frontcourt player).  

However, the Western Conference All-Star team has five listed big men (centers and power forwards), while the East team has one (Paul Millsap) with Love sitting out.  

It’s possible that the large discrepancy leads Silver to lean towards choosing a big man to limit the amount of positional discrepancy between the two rosters.

Beal has become a popular pick to take Love’s spot. Even as another guard on the lineup, Beal does have a great argument for being the commissioner’s choice.  

First off, players on winning teams should be rewarded.  

Washington has the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2017, and has won 17 of its last 20 games.  

The Wizards are still 2.5 games behind Boston for the second seed, but the matchup between the two teams on January 25 showed that Washington is at least on the same level as the Celtics.  

In that 123-108 Wizards win, Beal had 31 points on 12-18 shooting.

 It was one of his most efficient games of the season.

Horford was also extremely efficient, scoring 22 points on 9-12 shooting with two three pointers.

For the season, Beal is averaging 22.3 points and 3.7 assists, with 39.9% three point shooting in 50 games.

In six February games, that scoring average has risen to 24.8 points with 48.1% three point shooting.

Horford and Beal both started the season slow.  

Horford was joining a new team, while Beal entered the season with the pressure of now being the highest paid player on the team.  

Horford missed eight of the Celtics’ first 11 games recovering from a concussion, while Beal missed three of the Washington Wizards’ first 10 games with a hamstring injury.

For the season, Horford is averaging 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.6 blocks in 43 games.  

In seven February games, Horford has posted averages of 12 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 0.9 blocks.

Looking at advanced statistics, Beal has more win shares than Horford (5.5 to 3.9), more usage, a higher true shooting percentage (59.8% to 54.3%), and a higher offensive box plus minus (4.1 to 1.2).  Horford meanwhile ranks higher in most defensive statistics, including defensive win shares and defensive box plus minus.

When the coaches voted for the All-Star reserves in January, Washington was in the middle of its strong resurgence.  

The team had not yet proven that it could sustain the level of performance.  

A month later, the Wizards are a legit top 3-4 team in the conference, and much of that has to do with the team’s best scorer, Bradley Beal.

In the end, the abundance of guards on the team (6), leaves me to think Silver will choose a big man as replacement.  

If another guard was injured, Beal appears to have the best case as a replacement.  Horford seems like an obvious choice, but he could go another way with Porzingis, Anthony or Howard.  

Either way, it seems Beal has improved his play after not making the team as a reserve last month.  

If Beal does not make the game as an injury replacement, expect to see him use that as another piece of motivation as Washington embarks on the last 27 games after the All-Star break.  

Washington will need Beal to continue his recent level of play, as 17 of the remaining 27 games will be on the road.

With Love out, the race for the number one seed should be intense.  

Cleveland, expecting to lock up the one seed early, will now lean on LeBron James and Kyrie Irving even more than they have already.  

Boston is still playing without starting shooting guard Avery Bradley, who is expected back in the next few weeks.  On Tuesday, Toronto traded for power forward Serge Ibaka.  

When the Washington Wizards return from the break, it will be time to start the race to the top.