The Substance Report is an official rankings that I thought was necessary to come up with to determine which players throughout the league are most valuable to their team. Each day, for the next 15 days, there will be an article dedicated to a single player that demonstrates both his value to the league, but more importantly, the weight on his shoulders on his own team.
An example of the rhetorical questions to ask yourself throughout the readings of the ranking is something along the lines of, "What would the Warriors look like without Stephen Curry? How much worse off would they be as a team? Could they still win an NBA Championship if they just released him to the depths of a fiery hell? Would Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's efficiency go up because they would have more shot opportunities with Steph out of the rotation?" and other important meditations similar to that nature.
This is what the rankings look like so far.
30. Lou "Two Girls and They Get Along Like I'm Lou Will" Williams
29. Domantas "Arvydas's Son" Sabonis
28. Montrezl "Holy Shit That Guy Tries Hard" Harrell
27. Mike "Never Leaving Memphis Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M.!" Conley
26. Klay "Not Just Steph's Sidekick" Thompson
25. Trae "Ugliest Player in the League" Young
24. Ben "Kendall Jenner's Bae / Fresh Prince" Simmons
23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic
22. Karl-Anthony "Who Was the Last Good Player With Two First Names?" Towns
21. Blake "Pray My Knees Will Be Okay Come April" Griffin
20. Devin "Should I Just Become a Point Guard?" Booker
19. Anthony "'I'll Tell On You To Rich Paul!' / AD" Davis
18. Russell "I Didn't Know a Professional Could Take Their Job Too Seriously / Why Not?" Westbrook
17. Joel "The Cameroonian Clown / The Process" Embiid
16. Bradley "Will Somebody Please Trade John Wall Already?" Beal
When Bradley Beal was drafted out of the University of Florida by the Washington Wizards with the third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, nearly every scout drew comparisons from the combo guard from St. Louis to the legendary Ray Allen. His jump shot was smoother than the rest of his class, his handle was relatively tight, and his athleticism was shockingly impressive for a player that possessed such an enamoring fundamental skillset.
In an ideal world, Beal was the perfect complimentary 2-Guard for the Wizards to pair alongside the electrifying John Wall. In the minds of Wizards fans and their front office, the Wizards were only a swingman or a big man away from being a dangerous title contender. In hindsight, nearly 7 years later, those hopeful fans and executives may've been right at the time, but it's painful to say that they didn't obtain that third integral piece who was talented enough to push them over the top.
Since then, John Wall has experienced several injuries that suggest he may never be the same player we saw in his first couple of years. The Wizards gave him the worst contract in the NBA that doesn't even kick in until this coming October (Wall will make north of $43 million in the 2023-24 season, if he's still even in the league by that time). Overall, there hasn't been any stability in the D.C. franchise aside from disappointingly short playoff runs led by the Wall-Beal-Gortat-Porter-plus-some-random-wingman crew.
Now Washington is a couple of months removed from trading their two young small forwards, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, to separate failing franchises (the Bulls, and Suns). What the Wizards got in return were two tweener "big" men in Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker, each of whom have flashed moments of brilliance during their underwhelming young careers. This deal demonstrated that Washington doesn't have any confidence in their ability to develop young prospects. The 'Zards are just hopeful that their new assets will improve on their lonesome instead of within the structure of the Wizards franchise.
This leisure attitude is why the former Bullets are stuck in a sort of NBA limbo/purgatory. They're not bad enough to get a top 5 pick (thanks, but no thanks, to Beal's excellence), and they're not good enough to make a dent in the playoffs if they even make it at all. This doesn't excuse Bradley Beal from working his ass off towards becoming the best possible player he can be, which is exactly what he's done this year during the peak of his career.
Bradley Beal Statistics
This Season: 26.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.5 APG, 47.6% FG, 35.4% 3PT, 81.1% FT, 1,5 steals, 0.7 blocks, 2.8 turnovers
Career: 19.8 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.7 APG, 45.2% FG, 38.5% 3PT, 79.8% FT, 1.1 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2.2 turnovers
Bradley Beal is not a revelation by any means. Stephen Curry was a revelation when he started pulling up from San Francisco. James Harden is a revelation because he's going to possibly score more points in one season in Houston than he did in his entire career with Oklahoma City. Bradley Beal is revealing to the world that he's one of the three best shooting guards in the league, and can be a franchise cornerstone despite the injuries he's had in the past.
Beal can bring the ball up the floor for the Wizards, and he's demonstrated that throughout the season since Wall's absence kicked in. He's averaging a career high in assists at right around five-and-a-half per game. That should be what makes Wizard fans more hopeful than anything else (aside from maybe the ascension of Thomas Bryant as a valued rim protector and dunker), the fact that they have a polished playmaker aside from the ghost of John Wall.
There is absolutely no question whatsoever that B3 (I think I just made that nickname up, people should start calling him that, it sounds kinda dope when you say it out loud) can get buckets from nearly every angle. He can pull up whenever deemed appropriate (he has a Never-Red-Always-Green light ((especially considering the supporting cast of Jeff Green, Satoransky, and whoever the fuck else Washington has)), carve through defenses thanks to his ever-improving tight handle, and even post up smaller guards into lightly contested fadeaways.
His offensive repertoire is among the most impressive in the league now, and that's an ode to the hard work he puts in in the offseason. Beal has the highest EFG% in his career this season at 54.3% although he's taking more shots than ever before at nearly 20 per game. The sheer efficiency in the volume of his shot selection is really promising for the Wizards moving forward. They don't even have a half-decent roster built around him, which allows teams to focus on doubling Beal, but he's still managed to improve this season and put up staggering numbers.