For the Wizards to go beyond the second round of the playoffs, where they've lost in six games in the last two seasons, will require key contributors to do a little bit more.
While it's unlikely that everyone in the rotation will magically become better at an area of weakness, this would be the best-case scenario for the Wizards. We'll go player by player, in no particular order:
The skinny: In his third season, Beal missed 19 games because of a broken left wrist and a recurring stress injury in his lower right leg. He has had the stress injury in all three NBA seasons. As a result, it was a down season for the shooting guard who was expected to make a push to be an All-Star as he averaged 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
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The fix: Manufacturing offense from the foul line. Beal's shooting stroke is fine from three-point range (40.9%), though his mid-range game can be much better (42.7% overall). But when his shot isn't falling he has to be able to get whistles to pick up freebies. No, it has nothing to do with not getting respect from officials. That's a cop-out for excuse-makers. The elite players at his position, like James Harden, get to the foul line early and often (10 times a game) by not settling for jumpers every time and forcing the action which in turn forces officials to blow whistles on 50-50 calls. This requires Beal to have a more creative handle off the dribble to get into the lane and draw contact. In 10 postseason games, Beal was that player and you saw the results. He averaged a team-leading 23.4 points. He also averaged six foul shot attempts per game, almost four more than he averaged in 63 regular-season games.
Prospects: First, this is relatively easy to turn around. It's no surprise that Beal played better when coach Randy Wittman spread the floor with smaller lineups and didn't suffer when John Wall broke his hand and wrist and missed three playoff games in the East semis (Beal tallied 22 assists in those games). They'll use more small lineups this season. It's also likely that Beal will be playing for a contract if he doesn't come to terms with the Wizards on an extension to his rookie deal before the regular season tips. He thinks he's a max player and to get those offers as a restricted free agent next summer, he'll have to prove it. Of course, if he does come to terms with the Wizards before the negotiation window closes at the end of October, he'll feel the need to prove he's earned the salary bump. Either way, he has more than enough motivation plus the deck is stacked for him to succeed with the floor more spread out for him to attack the basket.
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