It’s easy to forget now, but just a few months ago Bradley Beal was starting to look like a major injury red flag. After missing 26 games as a rookie (including 19 due to right ankle/leg injuries), he wasn’t cleared to run again until July. Then, in November, he was knocked out of action for nine games with another right leg injury. He was (and still is) just 20 years old, but it was fair to wonder whether Beal’s leg issues were on their way to becoming chronic.
Fast forward five months, and Beal has ditched his red flag and replaced it with a cape. Heading into Game 3 against the Pacers on Friday, Beal is now averaging 20.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.7 spg, 0.6 bpg and 2.1 3s in 42 minutes per game during the playoffs. In the regular season, those stats would put Beal in rare company – the only players to average 20-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus assists were Kevin Durant and LeBron James (with Kevin Love, James Harden and Stephen Curry all narrowly missing out on joining the 20-5-5 club).
The question for fantasy hoops owners, of course, is what does this mean for Beal’s value next year? I know it has only been seven games so far, but personally I’m a full believer in this breakout, which comes directly after Beal posted 18.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.2 spg and 1.4 3s on 51.7 percent shooting over his final 10 regular season games. He’s posting stout playoff numbers against two defensive-minded teams (Chicago and Indiana), logging heavy minutes and thriving while doing so. And as mentioned before, he’s still just 20 (turns 21 in June).
It should be noted that Beal’s regular season numbers weren’t spectacular (17.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.9 3s on 41.9 percent shooting), in part because he was on a minutes limit (30 per game) for a month and a half after returning from his latest leg issues (during that minutes restriction, he posted 15.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg and 1.6 3s in 23 games). As a result, he finished just 88th on Basketball Monster’s 9-category leaderboard this season, but based on what he has shown so far in the playoffs, I believe Beal has a legit chance to vault into the top-25/top-30 range next year. Assuming he gets through the playoffs and the summer healthy, I won’t hesitate to take him with a third-round pick.
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A few other playoff-related thoughts…
DeAndre Jordan has bricked a whole mess of free throws during the playoffs. Don’t let that scare you away. Through nine postseason games, Jordan has been to the line 67 times, a total of 7.4 attempts per game (he has made 31-of-67, a clip of 46.3 percent). Those are scary numbers in theory, but they’ve also been inflated by seven games against the Warriors, who loved sending DeAndre to the line under the Mark Jackson regime. (More than a fourth of Jordan’s attempts – 17 out of 67 – came in Game 5 of the Warriors series.) Meanwhile, Jordan went to the line just 4.6 times per game during the regular season, and has averaged 5.0 attempts through two games against OKC.
Bottom line: With Jordan putting up playoff numbers right on par with his monster regular season (nine postseason games: 11.0 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 0.9 spg, 3.1 bpg, 77.3 percent from the field), I won’t let high-volume playoff free throws scare me away from drafting him with a third-round pick. Jordan was the No. 33 player in 9-category leagues this year, and now heads into his second year under Doc Rivers – and the final season of his contract – with a chance to be even better in 2014-15.
Meanwhile, don’t forget about Draymond Green. His playoff stats weren’t as noisy as Beal’s or Jordan’s, but in seven games against the Clippers, Green quietly produced some outstanding numbers: 11.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.7 bpg and 1.1 3s in 33 minutes per game. That was after a regular season in which he averaged 1.2 spg, 0.9 bpg and 0.7 3s (6.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) in just 22 minutes per game.
Of course, Green got a lot more minutes during the playoffs because Andrew Bogut (ribs) was out of action. And with Bogut (and Andre Iguodala) under contract through 2017 – and David Lee signed through 2016 – Green looks like he may be blocked from playing major minutes at the start of next season. But he’s proven that he’s potentially just one injury away from difference-making numbers, and that makes him someone to keep in mind in the later rounds of next season’s drafts.
A well-rested Russell Westbrook* is pretty scary. With his minutes limit lifted for the playoffs, Westbrook is averaging 26.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 7.8 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.6 3s through nine postseason games, including 28.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 9.6 apg with three triple-doubles** in his last five games. He was the No. 22 player in Basketball Monster’s 9-category rankings while playing in just 46 games this season, but Westbrook looks like he's ready to return top-10 fantasy value next year.
(*Try saying “well-rested Russell Westbrook” 10 times fast)
Other Playoff Notes: Another comment on how well Bradley Beal has played is that the Wizards have made their run despite some brutal shooting from John Wall, who has averaged 16.1 ppg and 7.3 apg while hitting just 32.7 percent from the field, including a combined 6-of-27 in the first two games against Indiana. … Kevin Durant has hit just 75.9 percent (60-of-79) from the free throw line in the playoffs so far. … Taj Gibson followed up a solid regular season (13.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg) with a standout postseason (18.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg in five games), and could see a major spike in value if the Bulls are able to unload Carlos Boozer this summer.