Let me preface all this by saying that I’m fully aware that neither Garrett Temple nor Gary Neal is an adequate replacement for Bradley Beal. Temple has performed ably at times, but he’s a rotation player at best. Neal, on the other hand, is a good but streaky jump shooter who’s a bit undersized for his position, especially if he’s going to start. The reason I believe the Washington Wizards can tread water during Beal’s absence is based on a number of factors outside of Temple and Neal’s level of play.
At this point, Temple is what he is. Though he isn’t a very good three-point shooter, he can spot up, attack a closeout against the right player and fill the wing on a fast break:
Unexpectedly, he’s also one of the few Wizards who has a positive net rating. According to NBA.com, the Wizards have scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions and allowed 99 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Temple’s 3.8 net rating is second only to Nene’s, who leads the team with a 6.1 net rating. Based on these stats, he’s exceeded expectations.
Neal isn’t sporting the net rating Garrett Temple is; in fact he has the third-worst on the team, but he’s one of the few Wizards who can currently be depended on to hit a three-pointer:
His floor spacing is beneficial to the offense, but he has the habit of falling in love with his own shot. Besides the problem of his “get buckets” mentality, there’s the issue of the defense. Opponents have scored 110.4 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and he has the third-worst Defensive Real Plus-Minus among all NBA players, per NBA.com. Suffice it to say, neither Temple nor Neal are ideal temporary replacements, but they may prove to be somewhat serviceable because they won’t be depended on to be creators for the offense.
In Beal’s absence there will be a redistribution of ball handling and playmaking duties. John Wall is the primary ball handler and playmaker, but in the interest of rest and the development of other players, those duties shift to Beal during stretches of games. Obviously, Wall can’t have the ball at all times, as it’s just too taxing, but Beal hasn’t been up to the task of being a secondary playmaker. He can be a dangerous scorer, but he lacks the vision to find scoring opportunities for teammates.
With Beal out, Wall will inherit many of his touches. Placing that much of a workload on one player’s shoulders is a precarious decision especially considering Wall’s initial level of play, but it seems the Wall everyone has become accustomed to has come back with a vengeance. Since Dec. 1, Wall has averaged 24.4 points, 10.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from three, according to NBA.com.
Whether it was because of a lingering injury or some kind of slump, the first month or so of the season was horrendous for Wall. He forced the issue too much, and his decision-making was less than ideal. But now it seems Wall is finally back to being the player he was expected to be:
Besides Wall’s resurgence, there comes the chance that the team’s three-point shooting finally bounces back. Despite most of their three-point attempts being classified as open or wide open, the Wizards are only shooting 35 percent, per NBA.com. On shots categorized as open, they’re only shooting 34.6 percent, and on shots designated as wide open, they’re shooting 36.8 percent.
To be fair, the Wizards only shot one percent better from three last season, but they’re taking a lot more threes now, so that should balance out in time. I fully acknowledge that the San Antonio Spurs just shellacked the Wizards (although rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. showed some promise!), and it may be misplaced optimism, but the team has the possibility of being competitive during this stretch without Beal.