Few Washington Wizards fans should have a problem with the team’s use of the third overall pick in this year’s NBA draft.

The fans wanted a shooting guard and Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld picked Florida guard Bradley Beal, widely regarded as the top shooting guard available in the draft.

But from a basketball perspective, was Beal really the right choice, or just the most favored?

We won’t get a sure answer to that question until at least three years from now, when all players from this year’s draft will have had ample time to showcase their potential. But it seems safe to make an early bet that the Wizards got this one wrong.

At the age of 19, Beal has all the makings of a solid role player in the NBA. He shot a solid 33 percent from the three-point line, scoring 15 points per game, so he’ll more than likely become a good shooter for Washington. He also averaged 6.5 rebounds per contest, the most among guards in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), and plays good defense. These skills will help the Wizards take better control of games on the boards and defensively.

But if Washington wants to compete with the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, and the league’s other premiere teams, they’ll need more than just solid role players. To compete for a title, they need star talent. And nothing about Beal’s game suggests that he’ll ever develop into a star player.

In fact, most Wizards fans didn’t even know who Beal was just a few weeks ago when the team won the third pick in the NBA draft lottery.

Top three picks are typically reserved for the worst-ranked teams in the league, as an advantage to help them possibly draft a star player. But instead of a potential star, Washington took a potential “good player.”

Granted, picking Beal at No. 3 may not be all Washington’s fault. Besides former Kentucky University forward Anthony Davis, who was taken with the No. 1 pick by the New Orleans Hornets, no other player in this year’s draft has sure star potential. As a result, some of the good role players like Beal got hyped up by scouts as potential superstars, and the Wizards took the bait.

But among the abundance of typical role players, there were still some players in this year’s draft that possessed more promise and potential to reach the star level than others.

One example is former North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, who was taken with the seventh pick by the Golden State Warriors. Barnes, once ranked as the nation’s top player coming out of high school, was predicted by most draft experts to be selected in the first five picks, but somehow fell to the Warriors.

Barnes shot 37 percent from the three-point line last college season compared to Beal’s 33 percent, so it’s safe to assume Barnes is the better deep-range shooter.

Barnes also has a deadly mid-range arsenal of fade-away jumpers, turnaround jumpers and step-back jumpers that will allow any team he plays for to mix it up offensively in half-court set plays. Beal’s mid-range game, on the other hand, is non-existent.

But perhaps the greatest advantage Barnes has over Beal is size. Barnes is 6-foot, 8-inches, and weighs 240 pounds, and has the prototypical size of NBA wingmen, whether listed as a shooting guard or small forward. His size will allow him to not only shoot over most defenders, but will also serve him well when he’s asked to defend the elite wingmen of the league, such as the Heat’s LeBron James, the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, the Boston Celtics’ Paul Pierce or the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who all stand at least 6-feet, 7-inches tall.

Unlike Barnes, Beal is barely 6-foot, 4-inches, and weighs 205 pounds; he plays bigger than his actual measurements but there’s no denying that he’ll be a liability trying to defend any guard/wingman over 6-foot, 6-inches tall.

With the size and offensive skill of Barnes, it’ll take a catastrophic scenario for him not to eventually develop into an All-Star caliber player. And even if he never develops into a perennial all-star, he still has the attributes of an 18 to 20 points-per-game contributor.

It’s hard to believe Beal will ever be able to offer the same contributions for the Wizards. He’ll be a solid player for Washington, but nothing more. Too bad they couldn’t get more out of such a high draft pick. 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor