Bradley Beal is already very good, and his past playing trajectory and the simple laws of timing promise he’ll only get better. The Washington Wizards shooting guard is 22 years old, in the midst of his fourth professional season, and due a huge raise this summer as a restricted free agent – one he’s poised to justify going forward.
Well, if his body cooperates, of course. Beal dealt with minor injuries that sent him in and out of the lineup during each of his first three NBA campaigns, and is on the verge of returning from another as the wildly inconsistent Wizards prepare to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.
Beal’s latest malady, a stress reaction in his right leg, is cause for greater concern than the wrist and shoulder that sidelined him in 2014-15 and at the beginning of this season, respectively. The 6’4 marksman had his rookie year cut short by an injury related to his current one, and missed time in 2013-14 and last season while suffering from similar stress-related pain to his lower right leg.
This is a chronic issue, basically. And despite Beal’s youth and the prospect of signing a max-level contract in July, he’s comfortable admitting it might be a problem for the duration of his career – if his minutes aren’t monitored.
Beal was en route to his best season before sitting out of Washington’s past 16 games, trading long two-point jumpers for a greater share of triples with no drop in accuracy and thriving in his team’s über-aggressive transition attack. He still has room to grow as a pick-and-roll ball handler and interior finisher, but has all the makings of a plus-plus offensive player who can be counted on defensively at the very least.
In a vacuum, he’s worthy of a maximum contract. The Wizards won’t only have the shadow of Kevin Durant’s free agency looming over them when it comes to negotiations with Beal this summer, though, but also the checkered injury history of their precocious wing. And now that he’s saying so publicly, it goes without saying that Washington will bring up the possibility of a career-long minutes restriction when talking with Beal and his representation when its time to make a decision on the future.
Obviously, that’s less than ideal for both player and team. For now, though, both Beal and the Wizards will be focusing on the short-term goal of improving – a task far easier completed when he’s healthy enough to be on the floor.