Wizards see chemistry building between Beal and Westbrook originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
While Russell Westbrook technically plays a similar style to John Wall, he is ultimately a different player and person, without the experience Wall had playing with Bradley Beal. So, although their similarities technically aided the Wizards in adjusting their offense following their blockbuster trade with the Rockets in December, there was nothing they could do to quickly replace the chemistry Beal and Wall had.
That is only going to come with time, the more Beal and Westbrook play together. But lately, the Wizards feel they are starting to see the signs their two star guards are learning how to complement each other.
One sign is the simple fact the Wizards have won three straight games. It is not only their longest win streak since 2018, it is the first time this year they have won consecutive games with Westbrook in the lineup.
In Wednesday's win over the Nuggets, Beal and Westbrook found each other for assists on a series of easy baskets, an indication they are starting to learn where the other likes the ball. That is one of the intricacies head coach Scott Brooks has been looking for from them.
"I think it's getting better game to game," Brooks said of their chemistry.
"I think now we’ve gotten some things together with some continuity and I think the guys are getting comfortable with Russell. Russell is a smart player. He’s understanding what the guys do. You can tell him, you can watch film, but when you see it on the court, you really get the instinctual feel of what guys like to do, how they like to get the ball in certain areas. I heard him about two weeks ago asking Brad ‘where do you like to catch on your catch-and-shoots?’ Some guys like it in their shooting pocket, some guys like it on their left side or right side."
According to NBA.com, Westbrook has assisted on 47 made field goals by Beal this season. The next player on that list is Ish Smith with 16. For Westbrook, Beal has only assisted on six of his made shots, second to Smith.
Those stats are a product of Beal and Westbrook playing a lot together and of Westbrook often initiating the offense as the point guard. But it's not just about quantity, the quality of their shots could increase the more they understand how to set the other up.
Westbrook's objectives are finding Beal in rhythm with his passes, creating open shots by driving to the rim and by setting an aggressive tone for the offense.
"He understands how to make shots and score, like we all know. My job is to make sure he does it every night because that’s what the greats do," Westbrook said.
"He’s been able to do it at a high level. My job as a leader is to make sure every night, miss or make shots, is to make sure he’s in attack mode and being aggressive because that’s when we’re at our best."
Beal's objectives are different as the two-guard. Sometimes, it helps just to give Westbrook space to work in isolation.
"[Our chemistry] has grown. It’s easy for me because I don’t always need the ball in my hands. I can read my guys and play off of them. I feel like that’s what I do with Russ. I let him have his opportunities of creating, of when he wants to go into a back-down, of when he wants to go into his 1-on-1," Beal explained.
"We grant him those opportunities and he’s successful with them and he creates plays for us. We love it. All I have to do is just continue to move without the ball, trust my teammates, come off screens hard, screen other guys. Just keep defenses off-balance with how they can guard us."
Beal and Westbrook have shared the floor for 453 minutes so far this season and have a -8.3 net rating as a duo. But in their last three games, that number is a +16.8 with very good showings both in offensive rating (118.7) and on the defensive end (101.9). Their trajectory is moving in the right direction.
Beal also sees another effect from playing with Westbrook and it's something Brooks and others predicted would happen after he was traded to Washington. Beal is finding Westbrook's competitive spirit to be contagious.
On the night he was named an All-Star starter for the first time in his career, Beal gave credit to Westbrook without being asked about him.
"How I approach the game every night with the locked-in mentality, I credit that to Russ. He brings a business-like, straight business-like approach. I feed off of that," Beal said.
"From a guy who’s an MVP, who averaged triple-doubles countless years in a row, he brought it every night. You have to be able to bring it every night to do that. I kind of channel that and I respect that in him."
The Wizards appear to have stabilized their season by going 6-5 in their last 11 games, but will need to play even better to turn their season all the way around from their 9-17 record. The more Beal and Westbrook grow together, the better chance they will have to do that.