Washington Wizards: Thomas Bryant shows potential as Bradley Beal slumps

Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant Steven Adams (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Thomas Bryant Steven Adams (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Bradley Beal was not getting it done for the Washington Wizards against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Luckily, someone was there to pick up the slack.

When Bradley Beal is not hitting his shots this season, the Washington Wizards will struggle to score. We saw it in the season-opening loss against Dallas, and it looked like we were in for another poor scoring performance against Oklahoma City.

For Beal, the shooting struggles continued in game two. On opening night, he went just 7-25 from the floor and 1-11 from three. In game two, he was 7-23 from the floor and 3-11 from three. A mild improvement but certainly not the numbers we’ve come to expect from Beal.

Luckily, there was someone there to bail him out in OKC. In game two, Thomas Bryant exploded, leaving no doubts about who the team will turn to when Beal is struggling throughout the season.

Things didn’t start great for Bryant. In the games’ first possession, he was standing under the rim as Steven Adams flushed the ball through the hoop for the game’s first points. It seemed Adams was winning one of the game’s key matchups from the opening tip. But Bryant didn’t care. He went straight down the court, put one in at the rim to tie it at two, and never looked back.

Bryant finished the game with an impressive stat line: 21 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks. The stat line itself is impressive, but how Bryant got there should have Wizards fans salivating about what this big man can become.

Stretching the Floor

Last season, Thomas Bryant did most of his work in and around the rim. He was good there, too, posting the NBA’s top two-point and restricted-area shooting percentages. However, that’s not the only place he’ll be operating this season.

In the win over the Thunder, Bryant attempted seven three-pointers, the majority of those attempts coming in the first half. He had hoisted four before the end of the first quarter. Last season, by comparison, Bryant only attempted more than four three-point attempts once. We’re just two games into this season, and he’s already matched that total.

Bryant ended up making three of his seven attempts from deep (42.9 percent) and finished the game 9-16 from the field. He shot over 66 percent on two-point shots, mixing wet mid-range jumpers in with rim-rattling putbacks.

Last season, Bryant had just six double-doubles and four games of at least 20 points and ten rebounds. Two games into this season, and he already has two double-doubles and one game with at least 20 points and ten rebounds. The center we all know as ‘Thomas Bryant’ is evolving.

Big Players Make Big Plays

With Beal slumping, Thomas Bryant was the catalyst that kept the Wizards not just in the game, but ahead of the Thunder for most of regulation. That was until a scary collision on a Darius Bazley alley-oop forced Bryant out of the game midway through the third quarter. Bryant left with 4:09 still left in the quarter. The Washington Wizards were up 67-61.

Bryant would not see the floor again until the 8:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter. By that time, the Thunder had cut the lead to just four, 78-74.

The Wizards 22-year-old center picked up right where he left off after getting knocked on the head. During his first offensive possession after the collision, Bryant grabbed a miss by rookie Rui Hachimura and slammed it home. He continued making big plays down the stretch as the Thunder tried to mount their comeback.

Bryant came up with a couple of clutch steals in the game’s final three minutes. He found a cutting Beal for a crucial layup. And he continued to protect the rim. With the Wizards were up 94-83, Bryant bothered Dennis Schroder at the rim, forcing a missed shot and essentially securing the Wizards’ win.

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There’s no denying that Bryant was the one to propel this team to their first victory of the season. Rookie Rui Hahcimura helped out with another solid performance (19 points, five rebounds, two assists), but this was Bryant’s game. While it’s safe to assume Beal will bounce back from whatever’s got him in this funk, they’ll still need plenty more of these performances from Bryant all season long.