Washington Wizards: Is it Time to Shut Down Bradley Beal?

Washington Wizards Bradley Beal (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Bradley Beal (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Bradley Beal has been outstanding all year for the Washington Wizards. Many would say he’s worthy of an All-NBA nod. Many would also say he’s playing too many minutes.

Bradley Beal is in the midst of a career year with the Washington Wizards. There are still ten games left to play this season, but Beal has already exceeded career-highs in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.  He’s also posting career-highs across nearly all advanced metrics.

With 2715 minutes played already this season, Beal is on pace to set a career-high in total minutes played, as well. Beal currently leads the league in total minutes played and minutes per game (37.7). He also leads the league in total miles run: 195.3

To call his workload heavy this season would be a gross understatement. Beal’s been doing it all. But maybe he should start doing a little less.

What Beal’s been able to do on the floor is impressive, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. In John Wall‘s absence, Beal has emerged as a legitimate number one option and one of the NBA’s best guards. On the season, he’s averaging 26 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. Since Wall went out with injury, he’s been even better, putting up 28 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6.3 points without his all-star running mate.

But those heroics haven’t quite translated into wins. At least not consistently. With 10 games left, the Wizards have a record of just 30-42, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference. They currently sit 5.5 games behind the Miami Heat for the East’s final playoff spot.

Going into tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Basketball Reference gives the Wizards just a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs. On the other hand, they give the Wizards a much better chance of landing a top lottery pick.

If the Wizards do give up on their playoff hopes, whether by choice or by mathematical elimination, it’d make sense to start easing up on Beal’s minutes. The last time he played less than 30 minutes in a game was December 23, 2018 against the Indiana Pacers. His high level of play could actually hurt the Wizards if they start positioning themselves for a high draft pick.

With next season expected to be another Wall-less one, the Wizards will likely be leaning on Beal just as heavily, if not heavier. Of course, the risk of injury is always present. But putting Beal on the court for the the entire second half in largely meaningless games doesn’t exactly help preserve him for next season, either. If Wall’s injury has taught us all anything, it’s that player health shouldn’t be undervalued. The best ability is availability.

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It’s worth noting that no matter what might make sense for next season, Beal might not approve of a partial shutdown. If selected as one of the six All-NBA guards this season, Beal will be eligible for a four-year, $194 million supermax extension this summer. Shutting things down, even if only partially, would certainly hurt his chances there.

If he doesn’t qualify for the extension, there’s always a chance Beal could go test free agency in 2021. His future as a Wizard might depend on whether he ends up on the All-NBA team or not.

One factor that could hurt his chances: The Wizards’ loss column.