Please Get Bradley Beal a Backup Before It's Too Late | Wizards Blog Truth About

Please Get Bradley Beal a Backup Before It’s Too Late

Updated: February 21, 2018

43, 35, 44, 41, 36, 31, 38, 41.

Those are the minutes Bradley Beal has played in his last eight games. That’s 38.62 minutes per game, which is over one minute more than the current league leader – Jimmy Butler – plays each night (37.3).

That’s a problem.

Now, I know what you are thinking. John Wall missed all those games. It’s perfectly reasonable for Brooks to lean on his only healthy All-Star while Wall recovers.

Only one problem with that reasoning: Beal was actually playing more minutes before Wall’s injury. In Wall’s last 12 games played (from December 31 to January 25) Beal averaged a staggering 39.25 minutes per game. He played over 40 minutes in seven of the twelve games.

This is not a new phenomenon. Brooks has been clinging to Beal like Linus to his blanket for a while now. And, with a brutal post-All-Star break schedule on the horizon, things could get much worse, very quickly.

Beginning this Thursday, Washington plays five games in seven nights against Cleveland, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State. Then, after one day off, the Wizards play three games in five nights versus Toronto, Indiana and Miami.

That’s eight games in 13 days with all but one coming against current playoff teams. And if history is any guide, Brooks will not hesitate to play Beal 40+ minutes in all of those games as long as the Wizards are within striking distance. So, how can we stop Brooks from wearing Beal down with “playoff” minutes before the playoffs even begin?

Only one man can do it: Ernie Grunfeld. Ernie needs to do now what he failed to do the last two off-seasons — sign a backup shooting guard who can play meaningful NBA minutes.

For the second straight summer, the Wizards filled their backup shooting guard spot with a guy who was several years removed from providing a full season of solid NBA production. Last year it was Marcus Thornton. This year it was Jodie Meeks.

Meeks was coming off two straight injury-ravaged campaigns when Ernie signed him to a two-year deal with a player option. Ironically, in a season where his Wizards’ teammates have been hit with a rash of injuries, Meeks’ durability has not been an issue. He has been available to play in all 57 games thus far.

Instead, it’s what he has done on the court that’s been the problem. Meeks, whose only above-average NBA skill is shooting three-pointers, is hitting an unsightly 30.9 percent from long-range. That’s not good. To put that in perspective, Tomas Satoransky, who is far from a three-point specialist, could miss his next 31 three-point attempts and still have a higher three-point shooting percentage than Meeks.

With Satoransky playing starter’s minutes at point guard, John Wall sidelined for another month and Tim Frazier struggling again as a backup point guard even before his nasal fracture injury, there are simply no good backcourt options for Brooks when he scans the bench looking to give Beal a breather. Frazier’s ineffectiveness has exacerbated the problem because, in addition to his shooting guard duties, Brooks has routinely played Beal at point guard for stretches when Satoransky sits, to limit Frazier’s minutes.

This is where Ernie and the front office must do their job. The Wizards have had an open roster spot all season. Despite having a significant need for a backup shooting guard for a very long time, Washington left that spot unfilled.

When the Wizards traded Sheldon Mac to the Atlanta Hawks at the trade deadline, they created a second open roster spot. Despite having only one point guard on their active roster against the New York Knicks in the final game before the All-Star break, Washington did not use one of its open spots to sign a back-up point guard to a 10-day contract. As a result, Bradley Beal played 43 minutes in that game.

Washington is also the only team in the entire NBA that chose not to use both of its two-way player contracts.

This roster neglect needs to stop. The good news is the Wizards have to sign a player by Thursday to meet the league’s minimum roster requirement. The bad news is that all the chatter surrounding the team’s free agent search thus far has pointed to them signing a point guard.

Don’t get me wrong. The team could benefit from a backup point guard who can replace Frazier and allow Beal to play exclusively at shooting guard. However, that need pales in comparison to finding a viable backup for Beal.

Simply put, Beal cannot play over 38 minutes per game for four straight months and then be expected to significantly increase his output in the playoffs. Given Washington’s tough schedule during the final 25 games of the season and the crowded standings in the Eastern Conference, it is likely they will be jockeying for playoff seeding all the way until the final regular season game.  Not only does that limit Beal’s opportunities to rest for a game or two, but even if Wall returns as scheduled, he likely will not be available to play his normal allotment of minutes until the playoffs begin.

In a perfect world, Washington would fill both open roster spots in the coming days to bolster its depth. However, since the front office left a roster spot open all season, it seems more likely that only one free agent will be joining the team. If that is the case, the Wizards’ main priority should be finding someone – anyone – who can earn Brooks’ trust at shooting guard.

If not, Beal will continue to rack up minutes at a rate that would make Tom Thibodeau blush. That’s not good for Beal and it’s especially not good for the Wizards’ playoff hopes.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.