With the 2012-13 NBA regular season on the horizon, the Washington Wizards have become a trendy pick for the label of "2011-12 non-playoff team that will make noise." Unfortunately, the Wizards' postseason plans have been put on hold due to an injury to their star player.
Originally diagnosed as a "minor setback," a knee injury to point guard John Wall has now been upgraded to severe. According to a report via the Associated Press, Wall is set to miss roughly eight weeks for rehabilitation.
Not exactly what the Washington Wizards were hoping to hear considering the toughness of the first month of their season.
In the month of November alone, Washington will play the San Antonio Spurs, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers twice and the Boston Celtics in a home-and-home. Other notable opponents include the Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks.
December will be no easier as they open the final calendar month against that Miami Heat.
Although we could discuss the effect that Wall's injury will have on the Wizards' postseason chances, that is an issue that has far too many variables to define. Instead, the absence of Wall must be evaluated in terms of how it impacts his teammates.
Specifically his new backcourt partner, rookie shooting guard Bradley Beal. The question is, what will the impact be?
When the Washington Wizards selected Bradley Beal with the third overall selection in this past June's NBA Draft, many salivated over the prospect of a Wall-to-Beal connection. Unfortunately, the learning curve for these two will be even steeper as their chemistry-building will begin roughly a quarter of the way into the regular season.
At that point, the Wizards' postseason dreams may already be crushed.
As a shooting guard, it is imperative that Beal develops a rhythm with his facilitator. Due to the fact that Beal is a player who thrives in motion offense, it's equally as important for John Wall to learn the former Florida Gator's tendencies and preferences.
Where Beal wants a pass, how he curls off of a screen and what his hot spots are will all take time for Wall to learn. With the former Kentucky Wildcat sidelined for roughly two months, the Wizards' dynamic duo will be playing catch-up as they compete with their Eastern Conference counterparts.
Beal may do well on his own, but building chemistry between he and his point guard will be a sorely missed experience.
Who Will Facilitate?
Until John Wall returns from injury, Bradley Beal will be working with a combination of A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack. Although respectable players, neither have significant starting experience.
Fortunately, Mack displayed a great feel for the game as the 2011-12 regular season progressed. His averages are weak, but the former Butler Bulldog posted seven games with at least four assists during the final month of the season.
That included 10 points and eight assists in just 19 minutes when the Wizards played Deron Williams and the former New Jersey Nets.
If Mack is able to perform in such a manner while receiving more playing time, Beal could see a smaller learning curve than expected. With Wall out, however, it's more than likely that Beal will be developing his ability to score off of the dribble.
Not his greatest strength of moving without the ball.
Will There Be Motion Offense?
With all due respect to Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price, their inexperience suggests that they are not yet comfortable within a motion offense. For that reason, it's not too hard to imagine Bradley Beal taking on a greater role as one of the primary ball handlers.
Something that could be both beneficial and detrimental to his development.
The strongest quality in Beal's game is his uncanny ability to move without the ball in his hands. With the previous point established, however, he will need to improve his penetration and separation skills while handling the ball.
This could place a heavy burden on Beal and take him out of his comfort zone. It could also allow him to expand his game and become a much more well-versed player.
Speaking of becoming a well-versed player, did we ever mention how underrated Bradley Beal was as a ball handler?
Beal's game is all about activity. On offense he's constantly on the move and on D, he's either crashing the boards or playing the passing lanes. When he has to slow it down, however, he is more than capable of taking the ball and facilitating an offense.
We're all in recognition of the fact that John Wall is the franchise point guard. If Beal's elite ball handling skills can translate to the NBA level, however, the Wizards could have a system in which two players can work both on and off of the ball.
Considering Wall is as ferocious a slasher as any in the league, this could change everything for Randy Wittman's crew. The question is, will Beal develop as expected?