Why John Wall and Bradley Beal Can Carry Wizards to Deep Playoff Run

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 30, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 28: Bradley Beal #3 chats with teammate John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards while facing the Golden State Warriors on January 28, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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These guys are tough individually, but together, they're a problem.

John Wall and Bradley Beal fueled the Washington Wizards to the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2008. And now they're into the second round after making easy work of the Chicago Bulls

Wall, who's been this team's everything since his first day on the job, wasn't even on his A-game in the first round, shooting just 36.4 percent from the floor. Only you probably wouldn't have known it unless you were box-score watching throughout. 

He didn't let his off-shooting round jeopardize the team's offensive rhythm. Washington still averaged 100.3 points in each of its first three wins over Chicago, who ranked No. 1 in the league this season, allowing just 91.1 points a night.

Wall also turned the ball over just 12 times in five games, and only four times in the last three games of the series. He's starting to push more of the right buttons, and his teammates are improving because of it. 

Trevor Ariza has emerged as a key player for Washington after it appeared he'd been on the downslope of his career. Ariza shot 40.7 percent from downtown this season after shooting a career-high 36.4 percent in his first year with the Wizards in 2012-13. And I'd like to think a portion of the credit for Ariza's improved accuracy should go to Wall, who consistently finds ways to free up shooters with his dangerous drive-and-kick game.

But how about Beal, who looked sharp from all angles against the Bulls? There aren't many more 2-guards with a smoother offensive approach. 

He averaged 19.8 points on 45.5 percent shooting in the first round. From deep spot-up threes to pull-ups in the mid-range and strong takes to the rack, Beal was flowing out there like a seasoned NBA veteran. 

Only he's 20 years old, which sounds laughable, not just in terms of his advanced skill set and fundamentals, but because of his physical and mental maturity. 

At 6'5", 207 pounds, he's got a body built for contact with a mind built for pressure. Beal looked poised out there—cool yet confident.

Beal also showed off one of the more underrated aspects of his game—his passing. 

He averaged 3.3 assists on the year, and 4.2 per game against Chicago. Based on the threat he now poses as a scorer, Beal has started to generate plenty of attention from opposing defenses, and he's finding ways to capitalize as an assist-man. 

But one of the things that could make Wall and Beal so dangerous together in the playoffs is their ability to adapt to any speed or pace of a game. 

Washington just knocked off the Bulls in grind-it-out fashion—both teams finished the series tied for the slowest pace of any team in the playoffs. 

Wall and Beal each have terrific half-court games, as do Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat—two guys who've made a living in the paint throughout their careers. 

Between Wall's ability to break down set defenses with dribble penetration, and Beal's complete scoring arsenal, whether it's one-on-one or as a complementary shot-maker, this is a team that can work the clock and pick you apart in the half court.  

But it also has the jets to play at high speeds. There aren't many guards tougher to contain in the open floor than Wall, whose explosiveness can allow the Wizards to pick up easy buckets in transition before the defense can set. 

This play below is after a made bucket—and Wall manages to take the inbounds pass baseline to baseline for a score before the shot clock can reach 18. 

Beal isn't too shabby in the open floor, and neither is Ariza, both of whom can get out on the break, play above the rim and finish on the move. 

Whether Washington's second-round opponent is the Indiana Pacers, who play at a slower pace, or the Atlanta Hawks, who like to speed things up, this Wizards team should be flexible enough to handle any style. 

Defensively, they've always been pretty solid. The Wizards ranked top 10 in defensive efficiency both this season and last season. Offensive efficiency has been the issue, but with Wall commanding the offense and Beal executing in a go-to role, the jobs of the bigs down low and the shooters on the perimeter become a whole lot easier to do.

Everything seems to be coming together at the right time for Washington, and if you're a believer in momentum, then you've got to like the Wizards chances to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. 

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Bradley Beal #3 and John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards celebrate during the game against the Toronto Raptors at the Verizon Center on March 31, 2013 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
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"It just shows our continued growth," Beal told the Associated Press via ESPN. "We played great basketball in this series and we can only continue to get better and better."

"The main thing is to focus in and know what this team is capable of," Wall told the Associated Press. "I just give a lot of credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the great game plan and making adjustments and committing ourselves to play on every given night."

Between Wall's and Beal's potent offensive attack, along with the support they're getting Ariza, Nene and Gortat, this lineup has firepower to offer from every spot on the floor. And with a strong defensive foundation and a beatable second-round opponent, regardless who they play, the Wizards are poised to emerge as the surprise team of the 2013-14 playoffs.