Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal caught between two generations of shooting guards

Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

Bradley Beal has gone up against two of the NBA’s best young shooting guards this week, and shown he’s not giving up that title without a fight.

In the Washington Wizards‘ last two games, Bradley Beal has found himself as the elder statesman compared to his youthful counterparts on the opposing team.

In Friday night’s 128-124 loss to the Utah Jazz, Beal, 25 years old, was matched up against sophomore Donovan Mitchell, 22. The two scorers played each other close to evenly, finishing with 34 and 35 points, respectively.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Beal got the better of another 22-year-old shooting guard in the Phoenix SunsDevin Booker. While the Wizards came out victories, Booker won the head-to-head battle with his second 50-point game compared to Beal’s 28.

This is somewhat unfamiliar territory for Beal, who has spent most of his career as the up-and-coming, young shooting guard behind the more established generation ahead of him. While the present belonged to two-guards like James Harden of the Houston Rockets, DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs, and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Beal would take the mantle as they rounded out their prime.

But Beal finds himself on a bit of an island, caught between two waves of talent. Too young to be a part of Harden’s, DeRozan’s, and Thompson’s generation, but a touch too old to be grouped in with Mitchell and Booker.

Beal’s tweener standing is, in many ways, a testament to his All-NBA-caliber performance this season. As he competes for one of the final guard spots on the Third Team with averages of 26 points and more than 5 rebounds and assists per game, Beal has elevated himself outside of the “Shooting Guards of the Future” tier into the discussion of one the best in the league.

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That isn’t to say that he can coast to that top spot though. The flipside of all of this is that the youngsters are nipping at Beal’s heels as Mitchell and Booker continue to assert themselves in the discussion. Beal is by no means guaranteed the honor of the league’s best shooting guard, but this week, and season, have illustrated that it’s well within reach.