By Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — The Wizards have made a rare believer out of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

Smith believes it was Bradley Beal who should have been chosen to replace injured Kevin Love in the All-Star Game, not Carmelo Anthony.

“It’s not that he doesn’t deserve to be an All-Star, because Melo’s an All-Star talent and he’s All-Star caliber,” Smith said on ESPN’s “First Take.”

“It’s not about that,” he said. “It’s about who does he deserve it more than? I have to admit, he does not deserve it more than Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. He just doesn’t. The Washington Wizards are winning. They’re like 33-21. They are 26-8 over their last 34 games.

“They have been playing better, and when you take that into consideration, and you look at a Bradley Beal — who’s averaging 22.3 points; he’s shooting 47 percent from the field; he’s shooting 40 percent from three-point range, okay; he’s shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line; he’s the second-leading scorer on a Washington Wizards team that’s been playing top-five basketball in the league, okay, over the last 34 games — I think you take that into consideration. You consider his contribution to the success of the Washington Wizards, and you simply can’t ignore it.”

“And by the way, he’s doing it only shooting 16 times a game,” he said. “That’s what I look at right now. Carmelo Anthony is an All-Star talent. I know he’s a perennial All-Star, and I get that, but when you consider the fact that the commissioner, Adam Silver, had to make a choice because of the injury to Kevin Love, I think Melo, his history, being in the New York market, may have to some degree contributed to that. I don’t believe it should have.”

“I think something has to be said for success, combined with the contribution you make towards success,” he said. “And when you consider what Bradley Beal has done, and the way the Washington Wizards have looked compared to how the New York Knicks have looked the other night, having lost 20 of their last 27 games, I mean, c’mon now, I can’t ignore that and I can’t just shove that aside because of Carmelo Anthony’s greatness.

“Bradley Beal has been very, very effective — on par with what we’re seeing from Melo — and I think the fact that the Washington Wizards have obviously been significantly more productive than the New York Knicks, I think he deserved the nod ahead of Melo.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.


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