Bradley Beal will unlock new dimension for himself, Booker, Durant

Jun 29, 2023, 6:27 PM | Updated: 7:34 pm

PHOENIX — We will see it on a court in three months time. But for the sake of the present, let’s picture it.

New Phoenix Suns guard Bradley Beal takes the ball up. With a spaced-out set, Beal is at the logo and receives a screen from teammate Kevin Durant, setting the 30-year-old up to go right, flanked by a one-pass-away Devin Booker on the left wing. As Beal will often do, a quick hesitation crossover dribble rejects the screen and he instead takes it left, getting a split-second break on his defender to create a driving lane.

What is the defense supposed to do? Is Durant’s man supposed to drop back to cut off the space, leaving Durant open? Does the opposition switch it, forcing a guard to recover to Durant he can shoot right over? There’s no way Booker’s man as the help defender even comes over, right? If another helper arrives from elsewhere, that triggers ball rotations, which shortly after will end with it in one of their hands attacking a recovering defense.

We saw how fast Durant made this happen for Booker, granting Booker open looks off rotations we had never seen here in the Valley. Beal’s implementation will multiply that to frightening quantities.

Beal put it best when proposed an abbreviated version of that on-court look.

“Man, good luck! Good luck,” he said on Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Thursday. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about. It’s surreal to be able to think that’s even a possibility of us playing together. It’s still kind of crazy to think about. To be able to put it into words, into action out there on the floor, it’s going to be crazy.”

Beal was introduced as a member of the Suns after being acquired from the Washington Wizards. He forms a Big 3 with the pair of stars already here, forming one of the best collections of offensive skill in league history. Add on the constant gravitational threat that is center Deandre Ayton rolling and defenses are going to be searching for answers to those aforementioned questions all season.

“Bradley Beal is one of the best players in the NBA and we’re thrilled to have him be a Phoenix Sun,” head coach Frank Vogel said. “With KD and Book, we form a trio of three of the most prolific scorers in the game, a great two-way center, one of the best two-way centers in the game and these pieces are a great foundation for what we hope can be a championship run for this franchise.”

Beal, like Booker, is primarily known as a scorer. But in another similarity to the face of the franchise, the various team constructions in the nation’s capital had Beal initiating offense as a point guard at times over the years. From the duo’s time seeing every kind of defense possible and learning all the correct reads out of it while improving as passers, they can both run offense no problem.

Beal put it well when describing how a backcourt between the two of them would work.

“I see it as being free flowing,” Beal said. “I don’t think either of us really have a position. He can create, he can facilitate, he can shoot the ball, he can score the ball and I can do the same. It’s not gonna be who plays point, who plays shooting guard. I think it’s an interchangeable thing and whoever gets it, goes.”

When Vogel was responding to the same point, he noted how even Durant will be someone initiating offense as well, and Beal let out a “right” sitting alongside him, acknowledging the vision. The Suns technically could go without a “point guard” or “floor general” and the trio is more than capable combining their efforts to cover that part of the game.

“We want to play with pace, so we’re going to have a multiple ball-handler attack in most possessions,” Vogel said. “I love the fact that both Bradley and Devin have played point at phases of their career and can initiate offense, as can KD.”

With those four players, the Suns still have an opening for the fifth starting spot.

Vogel said he’s “very comfortable” with Booker and Beal as a starting backcourt but noted the possibility of Phoenix adding a point guard or Cam Payne factoring into the equation, as well as the possibility of having a defensive-minded forward taking the other wing spot. The latter would certainly have to be the preference given the defensive side of the ball, where Booker and Beal will have a lot to prove given the perimeter responsibilities that will need to be picked up by someone.

What matters the most, of course, is how Beal, Booker and Durant gel.

How the three of them can simultaneously maintain a rhythm and flow for their own games while allowing the others to do the same will ultimately decide how this goes. And honestly, it’s not much of a discussion point beyond that because of how much the trio cares about winning. Beal co-signed the thought that the only numbers they care about up on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounds are the score and not their point totals.

“Honestly that was the first thing they both said to me when we hopped on the phone,” Beal told Wolf & Luke. “Man, we don’t have an opportunity where you have three unselfish players able to join forces. You don’t see that ever in our game. That meant the world to me.”

It was an endearing moment of self-awareness when Beal pointed out how this is “Book nation” while looking around the arena’s pavilion and correctly stating this is Booker’s house.

Beal noted how this type of situation will “propel me mentally” to challenge him in a unique way. That will be part of it. While a lot of this is about how much easier the three are going to make it for each other on the floor, there are challenges intertwined with how quickly they can assimilate and establish good enough chemistry to make a deep playoff run.

Beal complimented the leaders Booker and Durant are while saying he is not just going to take a backseat with leadership and will be vocal, preaching the importance of the two-sided coin accountability is in a locker room.

And all three are hungry. Booker got a taste of the NBA Finals two years ago. Durant’s hearing a lot of chatter about his postseason performances the last two go’s. Beal has yet to see the conference finals and hasn’t won at least 45 games since seven seasons ago.

This type of stage around those two will reinvigorate not only Beal’s play, but his reputation that rapidly made him one of the league’s most underrated players due to his lack of expsoure and a now-bloated contract.

“I’m super ecstatic that every single day I have a chance to play in a meaningful game,” Beal said. “I think that’s one of the biggest decisions that impacted me coming here. Of knowing that every single night, I’m going to be in an important game. Every single night, I may have a chance of being on television. Every single night, teams are gonna give us their best. I look forward to that challenge and being in the position to where we’re kind of a targeted team, so every single night I gotta lace ’em up.”

Like I said, we’re unfortunately going to have to wait a quarter of the year to get our first glimpse of this.

But with how much these guys work, it’s going to be on the floor much earlier. Beal’s worked through a few “knick-knacks” of injuries that he rushed back from too early to trouble him the last couple years. This is the first offseason in a few he’ll be fully healthy for to not be saddled by rehab or anything else.

The Suns’ practice facility this summer is going to be bumping.

“I get antsy just thinking about it, because I haven’t had those opportunities,” Beal said. “And it’s the same with the other two guys, and DA. … It’s the first thing (GM) James (Jones) said, ‘OK when we played you, we pretty much doubled you when you had the ball but with us, who are you going to double team? What are your rotations going to look like?’ Just those two seconds I was like, ‘Damn, that makes a lot of sense.’ I’m excited about it. You have a lot of dynamic scorers who, the biggest box that we check is our unselfishness.”

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