Is John Wall-Bradley Beal Pairing the Next Great NBA Backcourt of the Future?

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Is John Wall-Bradley Beal Pairing the Next Great NBA Backcourt of the Future?
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant

The list of great NBA backcourts is an extensive one now, especially if you consider pairings like Chris Paul and J.J. Redick "great" due simply to the prowess of one player. 

Well, it's time to put John Wall and Bradley Beal into that category. Even after playing limited minutes together during the 2012-13 campaign, it's already clear that they're the next great backcourt of the future. 

 

The Wizards were best with both on the court

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Between Wall's delayed start to the 2012-13 campaign and Beal's premature exit thanks to his injured right fibula, this dynamic duo wasn't able to spend too much time together.

In fact, of the 1,745 minutes that Florida product Beal played during his rookie campaign, he was next to Wall for only 460 minutes. That's a rather small figure, especially when he played 1,110 minutes alongside Emeka Okafor, according to Basketball-Reference.

But when the two guards were both in action, they were excellent together. 

To see what I mean, take a look at the Wizards' point differential per 100 possessions with certain two-man combinations. This first graph will always involve Beal as one of the two players, and his teammate in question will be listed along the x-axis: 

Notice anything that stands out? 

Only Wall, Nene and Martell Webster helped Beal produced positive outputs, and Wall stands out in a big way. 

Now, let's look at a similar graph, this time with Wall as the primary player and the teammates changing around him: 

Well, whaddya know? The Wall-Beal tandem reigns supreme once more. 

Even though Wall had more two-man pairings in the green, he and the former Gator still stand out in rather positive fashion.

Now keep in mind that the Wizards as a whole were outscored by 2.8 points per 100 possessions. It's a pretty big deal that two young and emerging guards could up that mark all the way to 8.6 when they were on the court together. They rebounded better, passed more effectively, shot a higher percentage and played better defense. 

Basically, this duo did everything you could ask for in 2012-13, and they're still getting better, both due to their growing, age-aided skills and their burgeoning chemistry. 

When B/R's Dan Favale ranked the league's starting backcourts in late August, he had the Wizards' checking in at No. 12: 

The Washington Wizards have one of the most promising young backcourts in the NBA, but Beal is still working out his college-to-pro kinks and Wall hasn't yet shown he's more than a fringe top-10 point guard. In due time these two figure to be amongst the most elite of guard combos. Until then, they'll inhabit the middle.

I might have had them a little bit higher due to the success they experienced together, but I understand the inexperience-related concerns. That's going to change, though. 

And it's going to change quickly. 

 

Complementary playing styles

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Given their primary skills, Beal and Wall have almost unfair potential together. 

Wall thrives as a player who drives the lane first and foremost. From there, he excels either finishing the play or kicking the ball out to a teammate for the easy spot-up jumper. He's an incredibly dynamic force with the ball in his hands, and defenders simply aren't able to keep him out of the paint. 

That was the case before he developed a jumper. 

If the Kentucky product can terrorize defenses with a consistent shot from the perimeter, there won't be any way to keep Wall from dropping 20 points without breaking a sweat. It's hard enough to stay in front of his bursts to the rim when you can sag off him, after all. 

As for Beal, he's still a work in progress on offense, but he's already a capable shooter from the outside. 

According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), the 2-guard was only the No. 173 qualified spot-up shooter in the NBA during his rookie season, scoring 0.95 points per possession. However, that was simply because he struggled from mid-range, not from outside. 

My pure shooting metric shows that Beal finished the year with a value of minus-8.12, making him a below-average shooter. However, there are promising signs when you break it down a little further, as you can see below: 

That's actually a pretty typical distribution of value for a young sharpshooter. 

He thrived from the outside (even shooting 38.1 percent in spot-up opportunities), but his mid-range shooting ultimately held him back. 

The best part is that Beal's shooting was even better when he was playing next to Wall. 

As shown by NBA.com's statistical databases, Beal shot 34.1 percent on an average of three attempts from downtown per game when Wall wasn't playing. But when he was joined by the point guard, that improved to 50 percent of his 2.6 tries per contest. Even though he took 0.4 fewer looks each game, he made 0.3 more. 

That's improvement right there. And it's all due to the attention that Wall draws from a defense, as seen here:

Screenshots from Synergy's video databases.

Landry Fields is already caught in a pickle, and he's not even directly involved in the play.

He's just that terrified of having to play help defense when Wall inevitably drives to the basket. So worried, in fact, that both his positioning and the angle of his vision are neglecting Beal, who's obviously quite the dangerous marksman from the perimeter:

Once Wall does start to drive, Fields collapses down to the paint, leaving Beal wide open on the wing:

Now he finds himself caught in another pickle. 

Does he leave Beal open for the uncontested three-pointer? Or does he slide over and make the rookie attempt an extra pass for a corner three-pointer? 

He chooses the former, and it's nothing but net for the former Gator. 

Beal is the one who made the shot, but it's Wall that truly created the look thanks to the threat of his rim-attacking nature. 

And it works both ways. 

Wall is also more effective around the basket when Beal is on the court. According to NBA.com's stats, the point guard shot 66.2 percent from less than five feet while Beal was playing and only 50.5 percent when he wasn't on the court. 

Just as the threat of Wall's drives opens up things for the shooter, so too does the threat of Beal's shot open up things for the driver. 

Technically, it's Martell Webster that freezes Ricky Rubio on that first play in the video up above, but the point still stands. Wall thrives when he has a shooter keeping the defense from collapsing. 

Additionally, take a close look at what happens when the point guard is finishing at the basket. You should notice Luke Ridnour flinching.

It's not because he's afraid of upcoming contact from Wall. Greg Stiemsma is preventing that, after all. It's because he's prepared to jump out to the perimeter and close on Beal, who's waiting for a kick-out pass from Wall. That movement is incredibly subtle, but it's pretty telling as to the mentality of opponents when faced with stopping both guards. 

This relationship is already working, and as the two young guns continue to hone their skills, it will become even more mutually symbiotic. 

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Remember, this duo has a lot of years left together. 

Wall recently inked an extension that leaves him under contract through the 2018-19 season. Beal is on a rookie deal that has club options up through 2015-16, then he'll likely be signing an extension as well. 

Add in the fact that, combined, they're 43 years old, and you can see just how many promising years they have in front of them. 

As potent a duo as they were during their first season together, they're only getting better and rising up the ranks at their respective positions. 

Things are looking good in D.C.

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