The reported tension between the Washington Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal isn’t a surprise. The two couldn’t be any further apart when it comes to personalities. Wall is outgoing, boisterous and a natural star. Beal is reserved, low key and keeps to himself off the court. When it comes to their abilities they’re still off. Wall was a celebrated amateur as he ripped up summer basketball camps and dominated competition as a high-schooler in North Carolina. Beal had a great amateur career growing up in St. Louis but never had the hype that Wall did.
Washington Wizards guards John Wall (2) and Bradley Beal (3) react in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 102-99. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Ironically, despite their pedigree, years after being drafted by the Wizards Beal rules large as the highest-paid player on the Wizards roster with Wall coming in a distinct second. The difference in salaries has been rumored to be at the center of the “beef” between the two, but Wall released a video last week basically assuring that he’s not jealous at all of his supremely paid teammate. The whole situation between the team’s stars has been handled horribly, and when it comes to Wizards blunders the biggest target to blame is none other then General Manager Ernie Grunfeld.
Grunfeld can’t help the dynamics of the situation when it comes to money. Both Wall and Beal were payed max money in terms of the NBA bargaining agreement based on when both players were eligible for an extension. Grunfeld is not responsible for their opposing personalities or the rollercoaster ride that is Beal’s injury history, but he is in charge of pairing the two. Beal was drafted two seasons after Wall to play one specific role: Wall’s sidekick. Wall, the top selection in the 2010 NBA Draft, and Beal, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, were paired together with the idea in mind that they would emerge into the best backcourt in the Association. Beal’s draft profile was attractive as a 6-foot-3-inch guard who was athletic, still growing with deep NBA range. Grunfeld never stopped to consider how Beal’s personality would mesh with Washington’s top prize and franchise cornerstone that was drafted a couple of seasons before.
Even if Wall and Beal emerged as the greatest of friends, their pairing would still be an awkward one in the NBA. While both offer all-star-like capabilities at both guard positions, the pairing hasn’t been the slam-dunk that Grunfeld predicted it would be. When you play in the Eastern Conference, you have to build your team fundamentally to take down LeBron James. And with two picks inside the top three over a two-year span, neither Beal nor Wall was the counter to the James question. Wall can match James’ athleticism but that only matters so much with a near 5-inch and 60-plus-pound difference. And while Beal is a talent, playoff-caliber defenses have shown they can limit his effectiveness.
Wall and Beal might have some tension but that’s not the reason why the Wizards can’t make that next leap. The team’s real problem is still sitting in the front office making decisions, and unless Grunfeld is planning on resigning anytime soon, we’ll continue using everything else as a reason why Washington can’t excel.