Wizards have done well in Bradley Beal's absence this year

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Wizards keep stepping up without Bradley Beal originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The reason was different this time, as Bradley Beal had entered health and safety protocol just hours before tipoff on Thursday night, but the result was familiar. The Wizards won another game despite not having their top scorer and best player.

That pushed the Wizards to 4-0 this season when Beal doesn't play, which is a significant change from last year when they went 2-10 when he was out. At a minimum, it shows the Wizards' resilience to withstand a major absence and it also says something about the depth they added in the offseason. They have plenty of players who can step up and fill the void.

It also may say something about the schedule they have played in those games. All four of the teams they have beaten without Beal hold losing records and rank among the 10-worst teams in the league.

So, let's not get carried away with the stat. But there has been one common thread head coach Wes Unseld Jr. acknowledged he would like to sort out and that is how Spencer Dinwiddie plays when Beal is in the lineup compared to when he isn't.

"I think it's just a constant conversation with myself and him, Brad and him. It's going to be on all three of us to figure out the best way to do it. But it's there, we know we have it. They've shown at times to be able to do it on the floor," Unseld Jr. said.

"You can look at the numbers and say one produces a lot more when the other is not there, but that to me doesn't really have anything to do with the level of aggression. Whether a guy makes shots, okay. I think there's a way we can kind of get both and find that middle ground where both guys are aggressive."

The numbers are interesting, though. Beal and Dinwiddie have a -8.4 net rationg as a duo, compared to -1.9 when Beal plays with Raul Neto and +6.8 when he shares the backcourt with Aaron Holiday. Dinwiddie, meanwhile, is averaging 12.6 points per game on the season, but has scored 26.3 points on average in the four games Beal has missed. That's more than double.

It should be noted that while the Wizards have now played 32 games as a team, Beal and Dinwiddie have only appeared together in 23 of them. While Beal has missed four games, Dinwiddie has missed five games sitting out the second night of back-to-backs as part of his recovery from ACL surgery, which he had less than a year ago.

That should be mentioned, too, of course. Dinwiddie has remarked several times how the second year coming back from ACL surgery is when most players truly regain their form. Some patience may be required.

Dinwiddie said he's feeling good and he certainly looked healthy on Thursday in the Wizards' win over the Knicks. He had 21 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, a block and a steal. He could have had an even better game if it weren't for a 4-for-10 night at the free throw line.

"I think he was more of himself. We haven't really seen that type of Spence in at least a month or so," Kyle Kuzma said. "For him, I think it was just a great game to build off of and have that confidence. He's so good when he's getting downhill and just attacking the rim and being aggressive and being himself."

Unseld Jr. also thought Dinwiddie was more aggressive attacking the rim and would like to see that more often, even when Beal is in the lineup. Dinwiddie's career numbers show he is at his best when he's driving into the lane. He has a knack for finishing around the basket and getting to the free throw line.

This season, however, he's shooting a career-low percentage of his field goal attempts within three feet of the basket; just 15.4% of his shots, which is less than half of what he averaged in 2019-20, his last healthy season (31.0% of his FGA).

Dinwiddie explained how his role night-to-night plays a factor into that cause.

"That's always like a trick question, man. We all have a job to do and I try to do what's asked of me on a consistent basis. That's just hard," he said.

"Obviously, I want to play the best I possibly can every night, I want to hit every shot, I want to make every defensive play. I want to average 50 points, 20 assists and 30 rebounds, but it's just not the way it is. You've gotta work within the group and within the system and make sure everything works well. We're trying to figure that out."

The Wizards got the win on Thursday night, despite missing both Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They are 17-15 and seem to agree they still haven't seen the best of their backcourt as a duo. Doing so could be the key to really hitting their stride.