The 2023-24 season has not gone to plan so far for Bradley Beal. The three-time All-Star featuring in only three games since coming over from the Washington Wizards early in the offseason, with Chris Paul heading in the other direction. Paul now plays for the Golden State Warriors, while Beal has mostly watched his Phoenix Suns teammates from the bench up to this point.
The swingman was supposed to become the third option (there's a trend with the number three growing here...) on what was going to be potentially the best offensive group in the history of the league. Instead, Beal has looked on as both Kevin Durant and Devin Booker have played some of the best basketball of their careers.
With Booker having missed some time with both calf and ankle issues since the beginning of the campaign, Beal would have had an opportunity to play second fiddle to Durant in the early goings. In doing so he would have gotten more shots up early, and could have built himself a fringe All-NBA case, or at the very least tried to go for another All-Star team.
Instead a lingering back issue has stop any of that happening, and there is still no clear timetable when it comes to Beal getting back out on the court. Back issues should always be treated carefully and without rushing a player back too soon. But perhaps most concerning of all is the fact we've seen Beal already this season, but he has been forced back to the bench again just as quickly.
Just when it looked like this season couldn't get any worse for Beal, new rules introduced by the NBA this season have added insult to injury while he sits in street clothes.
With Beal listed as out for the Suns' in-season tournament quarter-final versus the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, he will officially have missed 18 games this season already out of a possible 21. As Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports has pointed out, this means Beal is officially no longer eligible for any end of season awards.
The minimum amount of games required to qualify for an award is 65 games, and Beal is about to blow by that. Not that he or the Suns will care about that - Beal was never likely to win any award this season - and it isn't the goal of the franchise to make sure their stars lock down individual awards.
But where this does become a problem is the fact that these missed games show no sign of slowing down. If Beal was available to play the Lakers, they'd have a better chance of beating an opponent who has beaten them twice already this season. The in-season tournament was never the main goal here, but the chance to lift a trophy in December would be a great boost to the franchise.
The Suns have never won anything before - and in going out and getting Beal - the Suns were trying to add so much top end talent to their roster that they would be considered championship favorites. Suns legend Charles Barkley is not convinced by the organization as contenders at this stage of the season, and as long as Beal is sitting, he'll have some sort of leg to stand on in that belief.
Putting up 17.3 points (Beal has averaged over 30 a season twice in his career) in a career low 28.7 minutes per game played is a poor return for a player who was expected to provide so much firepower for the franchise. The reality however - is that in the last three seasons - Beal has played in 50, 40 and 60 games.
He was never going to be the league MVP, although a run at Sixth Man of the Year on the way back from injury could have been nice. At only 30-years-old though, some have wondered if the Suns even need Beal anymore. They have two superstars and excellent role players in Grayson Allen, Eric Gordon and even Jusuf Nurkic.
The only silverware Beal can conceivably lift this season while playing is the Larry O'Brien trophy, which was the only reason he ended up in The Valley this summer in the first place. Becoming ineligible for end of season awards is just further proof that Beal is slipping further down the pecking order of players in the league today, while he attempts to get his back right.