It’s offseason player rankings season! Cue the confetti and pyrotechnics.
Each year, when the NBA calendar slows down to a halt after free agency, outlets all over rank the top players in the league. While some may argue it’s a pointless exercise, these types of lists are also undeniably fun to debate.
They also can provide a somewhat valuable resource in trying to compare talent across the league. For example, regardless of how you feel about the value of a top 100 players list, if one team has a lot of players on that list, they are probably a fairly good team.
Player rankings lists are starting to trickle out across the internet and so far they are reflecting what was a down year for Bradley Beal. All of it sort of goes back to what Wizards president Tommy Sheppard said right after the 2021-22 season ended. This was before the team re-signed Beal to a five-year supermax contract.
Sheppard could sense Beal was about to be written off by a lot of people after playing a career-low 40 games last season and shooting a career-low 30% from three.
“I see stuff about Bradley and I kind of wonder, my goodness, are we talking about the same player? He’s a special player, one of the best at his position in the NBA,” Sheppard said.
Some recent rankings lists are following suit there. The Athletic recently ranked the top 125 players in the NBA, breaking it down into tiers. Beal was in the 3B tier and listed 32nd among all NBA players. While Beal was in the same tier the year before, he was 24th overall on the list. That itself was arguably a slight, as Beal had just made All-NBA, which honors the top-15 players in the league.
Another recent list may be surprising. Hoops Hype ranked the best shooting guards in the NBA and has Beal sixth. He’s behind 1) Devin Booker 2) Donovan Mitchell 3) Jaylen Brown 4) Zach LaVine, and 5) Anthony Edwards. Beal just signed the second-biggest contract in the NBA, yet he’s listed by this outlet as the sixth-best player at his position.
Granted, looking at that list is a reminder of how much talent is in the NBA right now. Shooting guard isn’t even the most loaded position in the league, yet there are a ton of good ones. LaVine, for instance, averaged 24.4 points per game last season while shooting 38.9% from three on 7.1 attempts per game. Those are excellent numbers for a guy ranked as the 4th-best shooting guard in the league.
While there may not be much separating the top 2-guards, Beal’s production just two seasons ago would arguably warrant a much higher ranking than sixth. He averaged 31.3 points per game while shooting a career-best 48.5% from the field. That was two seasons ago, though, and Beal will have to prove he can get back to being that player.
The Wizards signing Beal to a new contract this summer was a lucrative vote of confidence that he can do just that. They are banking on what is a much larger sample size of Beal being one of the league’s best scorers.
While he averaged 23.2 points last season in 40 games, he averaged 28.7 points across the previous three seasons in 199 total regular season games.
During the same offseason press conference, Sheppard went on to say he expects Beal to prove any detractors wrong.
“It’s not a revenge tour or anything like that, but he wants to reassert that ‘hey, I’m one of the top players in the league.’ The only way you can do that is come back, get results and put up points. That’s a challenge he’s relishing,” Sheppard said.
NBC Sports Washington’s list, compiled by Mike DePrisco, has Beal as the 19th-best player in the league, for what it’s worth. That’s much better than 32nd overall and sixth among shooting guards, though Beal has a chance to make that look like a snub if he returns to his 2020-21 form.
In the meantime, expect more lists like the Athletic’s and Hoops Hype’s to come out. And as they do, it’s possible Beal will be slighted (arguably) by more outlets.
That’s just the way things go this time of year.