3 goals for the Phoenix Suns’ Bradley Beal for the 2023-24 season.
2. Have the best defensive season of his career.
Defending at a high level was absolutely not why the Suns went and got Beal. But if they are serious about winning a championship, and with the depth issues glaring at this point on their roster, then the team are going to need players to step up in ways that they never have in the past.
Beal is, to put it lightly, not a good defender. He moves incredibly well offensively without the ball, but on the defensive end, that has never quite translated. Is he capable of staying in front of smaller and quicker guards because of how agile he is? Absolutely. But when bigger opponents walk him down, Beal isn’t doing a lot to stop them.
Durant can be elite defensively for large portions of games, and Booker is underrated in this area as well. But both of these guys can’t take their defensive game to another level all year long if the Suns want to embark on a deep playoff run. They are not asking for miracles from Beal, just a level of defensive intensity he has never shown before.
There is a reason his net rating in five out of his 11 years in the league has been negative, and it is because his exceptional scoring is undermined by how often the Wizards got scored on when Beal was on the court. The 2017-18 season was the last time he had a serviceable rating on that end, at 106.3.
That Scott Brooks led team wasn’t very good, but they did have the lumbering big Ian Mahinmi patrolling the paint. The importance of Ayton to how Beal develops with the Suns is once again evident then, as he will be able to mop up some of the mistakes and miscues that Beal is going to make.
Last year the Wizards had a defensive rating of 115.9 when Beal was on the court, and three out of his last four seasons have finished in and around that number. That just isn’t good enough if you want to win a championship. Every star in Phoenix is going to have to bring a lot more defensively next season, and for Beal it simply has to be the best year of his career to succeed.