Washington Wizards: Should Bradley Beal rest until the play-in games?

Washington Wizards Bradley Beal. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Bradley Beal. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal is out tonight with a left hamstring injury for the team’s game vs. the Atlanta Hawks. This is the second consecutive game Beal will miss due to injury. He will be re-evaluated before the team’s final two regular-season games.

Should we be worried? Probably not. In a recent appearance on ESPN’s First Take, Beal downplayed the severity of the injury and hoped to be back on the court soon.

But with a nagging injury and the play-in tournament (and hopefully playoffs) around the corner, it might be worth resting Beal for the final two games of the season, regardless of whether or not he’s ready to return.

The Washington Wizards are fighting for play-in positioning, but resting Bradley Beal may be their best move right now.

With three games left, the only way the Wizards don’t make the play-in tournament is if they lose their final three games and the Chicago Bulls win all three of their remaining games. The Wizards still have to play the Hawks, Cavaliers, and Hornets. The Bulls will play the Raptors, Nets, and Bucks. On paper, advantage Wizards.

Although the Wizards have not technically locked up that play-in spot, it’s highly doubtful that the Bulls pass them during this final stretch. So now, it’s a question of where in the play-in standings the Wizards will land.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets are currently tied in the standings, both sitting just one game above the Wizards. With a head-to-head matchup vs. the Hornets still on the schedule, the Wizards could easily jump from tenth to eighth if they string some wins together. The Pacers and Hornets each have tougher upcoming opponents than the Wizards do. The Pacers finish their season with games vs. the Bucks, Lakers, and Raptors. The Hornets still have to play the Clippers, Knicks, and Wizards.

Plus, the Wizards, who are 15-5 over their last 20 games, are the hottest team of the bunch. Hopefully, that momentum plays in their favor, even if a big reason for that success — Bradley Beal — is resting on the sideline.

There’s still a lot on the line even though there aren’t many games left to play. But that doesn’t mean the Wizards have to rush Beal back to the floor. Instead, it may be worth resting him for at least one of the final two games to ensure that the Wizards are getting the best possible version of Beal in the postseason. These remaining games have some stakes, but the stakes are much higher in the play-in tournament and beyond. That’s when Beal is most needed.

If the Wizards find themselves with a chance to jump into the eighth seed with a win over the Hornets in the final game of the season, then Beal should be on the floor. But if they’re battling for ninth and tenth, then I say let him rest. The only thing that changes there is which nearly empty arena they play in. If they can grab the eighth seed, though, they would need just one win against the seventh-seed Boston Celtics to punch their playoff ticket. Bigger stakes call for Bradley Beal.

Russell Westbrook, the new triple-double king, can still put a team on his back. He has saved this Wizards’ season in more ways than one. But let’s be real. This team is only going as far as Beal can take them. They need him healthy in order to be successful once the regular season ends. If the Wizards have to rest him to ensure that’s the case going into their first postseason run since 2018, so be it.

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