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Making the case for Bradley Beal's All-Star ascension in Wizards' new offense

Making the case for Bradley Beal's All-Star ascension in Wizards' new offense

The early indications for Bradley Beal, who signed a $128 million max deal this summer while never averaging 20 points or more per game in four seasons, is that Wizards coach Scott Brooks will institute changes that’ll make him a first-time All-Star.

In the Wizards’ last preseason game, the shooting guard had 19 points in 28 minutes. He also had nine assists and no turnovers, attacking the basket off the dribble when the defense attempts to close him out on the open shot.

Center Marcin Gortat had this detailed observation that will be a good jumping off point: “I mentioned to a few other guys on the team, this is what I’d like to see from Brad. We all know that he’s a very great talent. He’s on the way to being a great player, too. But we need see more than just 20 points in a game. We need to see 20 points and six or seven rebounds, six or assists. Just because he’s a shooter and he doesn’t handle the ball as much as John (Wall) doesn’t mean he can’t have six, seven, eight assists a game. If we can add another guard with six or seven assists on our team, that’s going to be great. It’s going to open up a lot of things for him because he’s not only going to create shots for himself but he’s going to create shots for everybody else. People are going to be like, ‘I’m not helping from the big,’ and he’s going to have a layup. It’s better if Brad is going to try to do something 1-on-1. Automatically Brad is going to be able to beat his man. That’s what I like to see from Brad more, creating more than 20 points in a game that we all know he’s capable of doing.”

Brooks, who took over for Randy Wittman after he was fired following a 41-41 season, is giving him the tools to do it:

Triangle principles

When the Wizards are running floppy actions for Beal as he comes off screens to get the open jumper, they’re flowing into “triangle” when that gets taken away. The handoffs from Gortat or other bigs in the high post give him options other than simply standing on the weak side and waiting for the skip pass from Wall. Beal can maneuver around the big to create room from a jumper, or he can draw the defender out and blow by him to get into the lane to finish or kick to the corner for the shooter.

The offense has evolved into all five players touching the ball –- a huge upside of using triangle and something they didn't do under Wittman –- to make them more difficult to defend. The Wizards don’t call it triangle, but some of those principles are built-in and Beal can benefit quite a bit from them. The key in all of this is proper spacing which is the biggest issue for the Wizards to grasp until it becomes second nature.

Freedom to run offense

Letting Beal be on the ball instead of putting 99.9% of the burden on Wall is designed to help both. Beal showed to start the third quarter vs. Toronto that he can be efficient. Three of the Wizards’ first four baskets were the product of assists from Beal.

Wall has worked on his catch-and-shoot threes and looks more comfortable spotting up in the corners. There are times when Beal over-dribbles and passes up on a good look for a tougher shot but he’s living in the paint. Gortat is able to clean up misses because the bigs are coming over to help seal Beal’s penetration. It’s a trickle-up effect.

“We don’t want him to just be a jump shooter,” Brooks said. “We don’t want him to be a one-dribble pullup guy. We want him to attack the basket, not only for himself but for the bigs.”

Post-up chances

On inbound plays or after timeouts when the Wizards can get Beal on a small guard – this happened in the preseason finale vs. the Raptors but it wasn’t the only time in the seven exhibitions – he got matched with an undersized point guard in Kyle Lowry who is about five inches shorter. The entry pass went to Beal under the rim and that forced center Jonas Valanciunas to help. Otto Porter popped to the short corner for the pass and made a wide-open three-pointer. This is another way Beal can better his assist numbers (3.0 per game for his career). If there’s isn’t any help, he’s at the rim for the easy finish. Wall, who at 6-4 has good size and strength at his position, will benefit from doing this, too.

Off-ball action

In the NBA, the weakside is where so much happens to create the open look. In the past, Beal has fallen into standing and waiting for the pass rather than moving which has caused the offense to stagnate in the half-court. By making the best shooter a screener (see Kyle Korver) on the weakside of the floor, defenses can have communication hiccups. Beal is getting layups off slip passes while defenses ball watch, particularly Wall because he commands so much attention. He's getting bigs on him 25 feet from the basket on switches and is breaking them down off the dribble.

“We know we can score in a variety of ways. That’s just another way to get easy points, just constantly moving without the ball,” Beal said.

Porter is the best player at moving off the ball and sees the benefit of what’s happening with Beal. If Beal isn’t scoring from his off-ball movement, he’s making defenses pay for ball-watching when he has possession. It’s a side benefit of the best shooter on the team running the offense more.

“Everybody is keying in on him,” Porter said. “With him creating for others, it opens up cutting lanes, driving lanes for everybody and it definitely helps the flow on offense.”

Free-throw bump

All of these new wrinkles should translate into more trips to the charity stripe, an area where Beal has been shockingly inefficent (2.8 attempts per game career average). Beal has played 63 games in which he hasn't attempted one free throw

Brooks hasn't finished installing his entire arsenal. He'll add in things as the season progresses. Will Beal run more two-man game with a big or some elbow-gets that Brooks used with James Harden when he'd run the offense for the Oklahoma City Thunder?

"I’m still figuring out where everybody wants the ball, likes the ball and where they can be successful with the ball. With Bradley, he has the ability where we can spray his offense all around the court," Brooks said. "Not just at top, at the elbow, at the nail, on the side or on the baseline. I think he can do it all and I’m going to keep challenging him to be that type of complete offensive player. With all the guys. John is the same way. He’s been so dominating with the ball and rightfully so, he makes great decisions, one of the best passers in the game. But I’d like for him to be off the ball because when you get off the ball on those kick outs to him it’s going to be hard to catch his speed when he’s attacking the basket and it’s going to allow him to get to the free throw line which is what we need for both guys to get to the line more.

 

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

5 must-see moments from Wizards' huge road win over Cavaliers, including Markieff Morris' alley-oop

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Washington Wizards' 110-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night...

1. The Wizards didn't start out well, as they trailed by nine points at the end of the first quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. stumbled early by missing four of his first six shots and it looked like a carryover of his slump before the All-Star break.

But Oubre got hot in the second quarter and helped the Wizards turn the game around. This was one of his best plays, a two-handed slam that he celebrated with an emphatic scream to the crowd:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

2. Tomas Satoransky was one of the stars of the game. He had 17 points to go along with eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. 

Here's one of his dimes, a perfect alley-oop lob to Markieff Morris, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds:

3. Satoransky has reached double-figures in six of the 10 games since John Wall went out with an injury. This was a very impressive move, a stepback fadeaway that was super smooth:

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEW WIZARDS FREE AGENT SIGNING

4. Ian Mahinmi made some key contributions including four offensive rebounds and a steal. This was his best basket, a powerful slam that came at a key time:

5. This play helped seal the victory. It was a smart after-timeout set drawn up by head coach Scott Brooks and it worked to perfection:

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS