The underrated importance of Bradley Beal's passing to the Phoenix Suns

Bradley Beal is back for the Phoenix Suns, and his passing is the most underrated skill he brings to this group moving forward.
Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets
Phoenix Suns v Houston Rockets / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages

Friday night was a good one for the Phoenix Suns, as they finally got Bradley Beal back in their starting lineup again. The 30-year-old appearing for only the seventh time this season, while the six points he put up were nowhere near the levels required if this franchise is to win a first ever NBA Championship. At 13.4 points per game so far this season, his numbers are way down in that area.

There is still plenty of time for Beal to become what it is hoped he will be for the Suns, the best third option offensively in the entire league. But until that happens, there is still plenty he can contribute behind Kevin Durant and Devin Booker for a Suns team that is back above .500 and has a top eight spot in the Western Conference in their sights.

In fact it is the passing ability of Beal that is not only underrated, but is one of the keys to unlocking the true potential of this team.

In the win over the Hornets, Beal had seven assists. This might not seem like much - Durant led the way with 11 - but it was the same amount as Booker. The player who has become the team's point guard this season, so any time you're equalling them in assists, then you know you are doing something right for the team.

So while Beal didn't have it going himself and his shot was not falling, he was still more than willing to get his teammates going. To date this season, the Suns rank 10th in assist percentage per game (64.5 percent) and 10th in team assists per game at 26.4 as well. Impressive given that outside of Booker and Jordan Goodwin, there is no proven floor general on the roster.

Where Beal's passing becomes even more important is for the minutes when Booker is not on the court with Beal. Although he's never been known as a pure table-setter - when he was with the Washington Wizards - Beal was comfortable initiating the offense and finding open teammmates. Only now he has Durant alongside him, a luxury Beal has never had before.

Consider this statistic from the excellent Shane Young in the wake of the win over the Hornets, to give you an idea of how important Beal is to the overall picture in The Valley.

So it is not just that Beal is an underrated and willing passer, and somebody who can take some of the pressure off Booker each night. But the proof - albeit in a small sample size because of injuries - now exists that this Suns team can be special offensively once they get a run of games together. Which they will, with a hugely important five game homestand now on the horizon.

Forgotten by many is the fact that Beal has twice in his career to date averaged over six assists in a season. Both times with the Wizards, and interestingly on neither occasion was he an All-Star when he did achieve this. Beal did make the midseason exhibition three times when in Washington, but that was when he was thought of as a pure scorer before anything else.

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The days of Beal playing in that way are over, but if the early results combined with what he's done before are any indication - he is going to adapt to this next phase of his career really well. Which is exactly what the Suns need if they are to reach their full potential, but no matter what, the passing of Beal is going to be one of the most underrated aspects of any success this organization has.