How do you go from being the main attraction for 11 years and transition to being a part of a basketball big three? This is a challenge that lies before three-time All Star Bradley Beal following his acquisition from the Washington Wizards on Father’s Day this past June. D.C. was a place that allowed him to grow as a player, coming out of the University of Florida at 19-years old. It was a place that saw him average over 30 points per game twice and make an All-NBA Team.
But success did not follow – the team won 3 playoff games since 2017 – and while he signed a five-year maximum contract extension in the off-season of 2022, Beal wanted more. More winning. More like-minded players. More opportunities to develop into a complete player.
He demanded a trade, and due to a befuddling no-trade clause in his contract, Bradley could ultimately determine where he would play this next season. His choice? Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Even if it never cools down.
Playing alongside Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal has quite the task before him.
Having a big three is nothing new for the NBA, although it is new in Phoenix, when you consider that this one isn’t homegrown. The only big three that we’ve known are the 7SOL years’ trio of Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amare Stoudemire, all of whom were drafted by the Suns. This is different, as Phoenix has joined the unique list of franchises that have acquired their big threes rather than build them. The 2008 Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Ray Allen team. The Miami Heat’s LeBron/Bosh/Wade. The KD/Kyrie/Harden experiment in Brooklyn.
Now, it’s the Suns’ turn to experience a modern-day big three. Step one is acquiring the players. James Jones accomplished that when he flipped Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, and more second round picks than Jokic set against Phoenix in the postseason for Beal. Step two is finding a way to make it work. That comes down to the players and head coach Frank Vogel.
Beal’s addition felt duplicitous when it occurred as the Suns already rostered one of the best pure shooting guards in the NBA in one Devin Armani Booker. From a fit standpoint, it might not have been the best acquisition. James Jones isn’t worried about fit, however. He isn’t worried about traditional basketball. He values talent and those who were willing to put the work in and grind.
Bradley Beal is expected to enter 2023-24 Suns training camp as the team’s starting point guard, with Jordan Goodwin as a reserve PG, sources say.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 16, 2023
Details on Suns moves to shore up roster, add 2nd-rounders for future moves, create $30M in tax savings: https://t.co/QdIc4Co3gw
We’ve discussed this, that the Suns’ approach will be different than many in Phoenix are used to watching. In theory it will work. But it comes down to the players. It comes down to how they meld together and adjust they way they adjust. Beal won’t be the same player as he was in Washington, nor should he be.
With a lineup that includes two other premium scorers, Beal will have the opportunity to open his game up and try different things. Defensive things. Things that his new defensive-minded head coach will fortify.
In a recent interview with SLAM Magazine, Bradley Beal talked about how it’s the side of the ball he’s not known for that he wants to work on. “I would say the biggest individual piece is getting back to being one of the best two-way players in the league. Showing that I can really compete at a high level and play a meaningful game.”
We’ve talked plenty about Beal’s ability to play make and how that will be needed for the Point Beal Project to work, but we don’t talk about how his defensive efforts could improve. And should.
We talk about Beal's offense. Let's look at the side of the ball where improvement should occur next season, the defensive side. pic.twitter.com/ItVw6vryBB— John Voita (@DarthVoita) July 27, 2023
He is no longer on a team trying to tank their way into the lottery, which should bring out a different energy from Beal. Back when the Wizards were a successful team competing and making the playoffs, although younger, Beal was a much more engaged player. His defensive ratings per NBA.com:
- 2012-13: 100.3
- 2013-14: 102.7
- 2014-15: 101.1
- 2015-16: 105.0
- 2016-17: 107.9
- 2017-18: 106.3
Once Washington began to plummet, so too did Beal’s effectiveness as a defender. It could be cause-and-effect, but it also could be a result of a bad team getting worse as Beal suffered with injuries and load management.
- 2018-19: 113.5
- 2019-20: 117.6
- 2020-21: 114.8
- 2021-22: 110.5
- 2022-23: 115.9
Beal is excited about the opportunity to work with his new head coach, stating that, “Coach Vogel is awesome. I’ve had several instances of speaking with him. A brilliant mind in the game of basketball, NBA champion, defensive-minded coach. You know, I’m definitely excited to be able to see where he’ll take us, our team and where he’ll push us to. I’m definitely ecstatic with his knowledge of the game and his presence as a head coach.”
He is now in a situation in which he believes he can flourish. The team around him will be better, and he expects himself to rise to that level. “Like-mind guys,” as Beal puts it.
“They’re very humble,” he added, referencing Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. “I try to carry myself the same way, with humility at all times. That’s what I wanna surround myself with. And like-minded guys on the floor who just want to go win. Whatever that looks like, whatever it takes, that’s what they want to do.”
The team will possess an offensive fire power that will keep opposing head coaches up at night trying to scheme on how to defend. Beal will play his part in that, especially considering that he will see the ball in his hands much more.
“I really believe that that’s who I am,” Beal said. “All-NBA guy, All-Star guy. And I have a good group that can push me to be that every single day. So I’m excited about that opportunity.”
“In terms of our balance, we’ve talked subtly about how this thing can work,” Beal informed SLAM. “We know it won’t be easy. It’ll be a challenge, but the biggest thing is understanding one goal at the end of the day is winning. You know, we’re all gonna have our own individual goals, but I think the beauty about our group is that we’re so unselfish.”
Defense is defined by unselfishness, and that is where this team needs to be special. We know they’ll score. We know they’ll light up that scoreboard at the Footprint Center and give us an exciting brand of basketball. But if they can employ Coach Vogel’s defensive strategies? This team will be flat out unstoppable. If Bradley Beal can lock in on both sides of the floor? This team could finally win a ring.
And we’ll celebrate during a monsoon for all I care.