How Bradley Beal’s ‘Sacrifice On the Defensive End’ Is Setting the Tone For Wizards

As the leader and face of the Wizards, Bradley Beal has been tasked with making sure that his teammates fall in line with Coach Wes Unseld Jr’s team ethos.

That team ethos would be becoming an elite defense. Last season, the Wizards were a tough defensive unit before they fell off the cliff a quarter of the way through the season. The Wizards ultimately ended the season ranked 25th in points allowed per possession. Unseld and his coaching staff spent the summer coming up with some different ways to figure out how to improve their defense.

The solution came in simplifying some X’s and Os’ so Washington could play based on their instinct. They also created a Defensive Player of the Game belt that a player would earn after each victory. The results of these changes have helped the Wizards become the seventh-ranked team in points allowed per possession.

It also helps that the Wizards have seen team leader Beal “sacrifice” his body competing and playing hard on the defense side of the ball. On Tuesday night, Beal drew some praise after he drew a charge as Saddiq Bey attempted to drive to the rim. It’s the type of sequence that galvanize your teammates and lets them know Beal will never expect them to do something he wouldn’t do.

“I know that — if I’m engaged and locked in and energetic and ready to go on the defensive end, that speaks volumes to the rest of the team, and everybody else follows suit,” Beal said. “We almost have a saying: ‘If Brad can do it, everybody can do it.’ So if I can get down in a stance and get after it, everybody can. It’s something that we hold each other accountable to do, starting with me.”

Although Beal will never be confused as a DPOY candidate, the three-time All-Star has exceeded expectations as a two-way stud within the young season. He embraced the task of guarding DeMar DeRozan during their clutch win over Chicago. Against Detroit, Beal showed his mental fortitude taking the same kind or charge that led to him suffering a season-ending wrist injury against Memphis.

With that kind of context, Beal drawing a charge resonated deeply.

“You see his sacrifice also on the defensive end,” Wizards teammate Deni Avdija said. “You see he ends up on the floor. It doesn’t really matter (what) your role on the team (is). Everybody’s sacrificing somehow.”

Unseld added on to the sentiments by calling Beal’s commitment “huge” and “another point of emphasis” that’ll help sustain their early season success. It’s helped, to a certain extent, Washington hold opponents to 42.7 percent shooting from the field.

“Oh, it’s huge,” Unseld said. “It’s just another point of emphasis that we can point to. If he can do it, anybody can do it. We’re asking a lot of him, and he’s bought into the defensive side. I think he’s been unbelievably good on the defensive end with his energy, his attention to detail and asking him to do it on both ends of the floor. Thus far, he’s done it.”

Washington is set to host the Pacers on Friday.