Bradley Beal’s offensive sacrifice could be the key that unlocks the Suns’ Big Three

It’s hard to take too much away from their current three-game winning streak when you consider the level of the competition.

 

The Philadelphia 76ers were without Joel Embiid, the Atlanta Hawks were without Trae Young, and the San Antonio Spurs were without…reliable NBA talent.

 

But it “feels” like something has changed. The intensity, the communication, and obviously the results.

 

“I think just the overall team chemistry. Guys are playing for one another a lot better,” Eric Gordon stated after the win against the Spurs on Sunday night.

 

Part of that team chemistry that Gordon referenced is personified by the way Bradley Beal has been playing. He is settling into his role as the primary distributor,

 

and it is his ability to penetrate and kick the ball that is creating mismatches for the Suns’ offense.

 

It feels like the Phoenix Suns are turning a corner, doesn’t it? It’s a corner they have been looking to turn for months now,

 

one in which they are playing connected basketball in rhythm, taking care of the ball, and playing within the confines of their respective roles.

 

The Big Three are unique in that, while they all possess elite mid-range jump shooting, their secondary skill sets are different.

 

Kevin Durant isn’t going to blow by anyone with his speed or quickness, but he can hit some of the most difficult shots you’ve ever seen and knock down off-the-dribble three-pointers with ease.

 

Bradley Beal is quick and can get to the rim with ease with his deadly first step. Devin Booker is a hybrid of Durant and Beal.

 

He can penetrate, although it isn’t his strongest skill set. His is using his body to create optimal spacing to either hit a jumper or find a teammate.

 

During the Suns’ current three-game winning streak, you are seeing Bradley Beal focus more on facilitation and less on scoring.

 

He has averaged just 9.3 points during the run, taking just 7.7 shot attempts. But he is averaging 9.3 assists.

 

“He’s reshaping his game for this team,” Frank Vogel said of Beal.

 

“He’s defending his butt off too. His ball containment is the best on our team right now. He’s doing it on both ends.”

 

The struggles the Suns had while on their four-game road trip involved turnovers and poor perimeter defense, Someone needed to step up and become that leader,

 

that individual on the court who set the tone with the way that they defended. That has become Bradley Beal.

 

Beal has been the most openly critical of the team throughout the season, at least with comments he has made to the media. He hasn’t been afraid to tell it like it is.

 

“We’ve got to be a lot better. We can’t just flip the light switch on,” Beal said after the Suns win over the Hornets. “We’ve got to come out with a lot better focus and a lot

 

more sense of urgency from what we’ve been having. It’s been way unacceptable,” he said after the Milwaukee loss.

 

Beal is the one who has changed his mindset, focused on setting up his teammates and being aggressive on defense, and it is paying off. Beal has a 106.1 defensive rating in the Suns’ last three games. Before that, it was 114.8.

 

“Somebody has got to do it. I’ve kind of shifted my mindset the last couple of games,” Beal said. “The offense will be there, but I’ve been worried about our defensive efforts.”

 

Beal’s efforts are allowing Booker to be Booker and Durant to be Durant. Booker is best served as an off-ball two-guard who finds space and hits open jumpers.

 

Durant is best served as a player who doesn’t need to run isolation sets, rather, is free-flowing and hits his jump shots in rhythm.

 

This is made possible when the offense runs through Beal. The threat that he may take his defender off the dribble creates gravity. Gravity that opens up his teammates.

 

The true test lies ahead for both Beal and the Phoenix Suns. We will know how effective his change in mindset and defensive

 

impact are when the Suns face a daunting 10-game span of games to close the season against teams headed to the postseason.

 

The fact that it is Bradley Beal who has taken it upon his shoulders to become the two-way player this team desperately needed should not be overlooked. Someone needed to do it.

 

Someone needed to sacrifice their offensive output and put their energy into the defensive end. Someone needed to be a pest on the perimeter,

 

close out on weakside rotations, and not allow the opposition open looks at three-point shots.

 

That someone is Bradley Beal. It could be the key that truly unlocks the potential of the Suns.

 

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