Phoenix Suns’ season preview: Bradley Beal’s career has been leading to this moment

Oct 12, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Phoenix Suns shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) warms up prior to a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 12, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; Phoenix Suns shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) warms up prior to a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

Out of the Phoenix Suns’ “Big 3” of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal, Beal’s role is the most intriguing. We know that Booker will likely handle most of the playmaking duties considering his years of experience as “Point Book”. Durant, as we’ve covered, will fill the same role he has for years as a scoring machine.

Beal will enter the season as the clear-cut best third option in the league, but after a half-decade as a first option, it’ll be a bit of an adjustment for him. Head coach Frank Vogel and his staff will have to find ways to maximize Beal on offense in that slightly diminished role.

The best way to do that will be to take different aspects of his game from his Washington Wizards and implementing them depending on who he’s on the floor with.

During his time in Washington, Beal played three distinct roles depending on the roster construction around him.

Throughout most of his early career with the Wizards, Beal was the second option next to John Wall. He was predominately an off-ball player who specialized in knocking down threes off Wall dimes.

As Wall dealt with injuries and his role decreased, Beal developed into a well-rounded lead scorer. This transformation was completed during Russell Westbrook’s lone season with the Wizards in which Beal averaged 31.3 points per game, which was second most in the league.

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With the Wizards devoid of talent and tanking the last couple of years, Beal became a do-it-all offensive player, still operating as their leading scorer, but now playmaker as well.

Beal will be able to take aspects of all those experiences with him to the Suns, but it was those years playing next to Wall that will allow him to fit in seamlessly with Booker and Durant. From Beal’s rookie season up until Wall’s last healthy year in 2017, Beal was an elite 3-point shooter, hitting 40 percent of his five attempts per game from beyond the arc.

Just like Durant, Beal taking more threes will be huge for this Suns team, as the two that don’t have the ball amongst the “Big 3” will have to create space for the one who does.

There should still be plenty of situations where Beal can tap into elements from the other parts of his Wizards tenure. While Booker will be the lead ball handler, it’s unlikely he’ll be the full time point guard. That would be a lot of unnecessary stress put on Book to score at a high clip while shouldering the entire playmaking load.

Instead, expect Beal to act as a secondary distributor, similar to how Booker was used next to Chris Paul. Since that last healthy Wall season, Beal has averaged over five assists per game, which is a great number for a two guard. He’ll be able to both spell and set up Booker when they’re on the court together, while also acting as the lead playmaker when Booker is off the floor.

There should also be times when Beal can lean into the iso-heavy style of play he thrived in outside of when Wall and Westbrook were on his team.

Vogel will almost definitely stagger his three stars and pair them with all-bench lineups. When Beal is out there while Durant and Booker are resting, he’ll be the focal point just like he’s been for the last few years. That comfortability as a first option is what separates him from all the other third options in the league.

Beal’s role on defense, on the other hand, will be a lot less interesting. He’s shown to be a capable, but not great defender, though he’ll probably be better when not expending all his energy to carry an offense.  But with perimeter defenders like Josh Okogie, Grayson Allen, Jordan Goodwin, and even Booker, Beal won’t be asked to guard the other team’s best players nightly.

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His size on that end will probably be the biggest improvement over CP3 who was hunted relentlessly by bigger guards. Beal will also be a lot more switchable than Paul was because of that, which will be a huge advantage for the Suns.

Bradley Beal’s unique experience in so many different roles gives the Suns the most devastating third option in the league. His inherent advantages of size and age over Paul on defense is an underrated factor that will shore up some previous weaknesses. It’s all setting up to be an incredible debut season for Beal in Phoenix.