Wizards

Quick Links

Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Is this the year Bradley Beal becomes an All-Star?

usatsi_9996802.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Is this the year Bradley Beal becomes an All-Star?

As part of CSN's preview for the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we preview Bradley Beal's season...

Player: Bradley Beal

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 24

2016-17 stats: 77 G, 34.9 mpg, 23.1 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.3 bpg, 48.2 FG%, 40.4 3P%, 82.5 FT%, 56.6 eFG%, 117 ORtg, 112 DRtg

2017-18 storyline: Last year represented a breakthrough for Beal for a variety of reasons. Not only did he have his best season from a statistical standpoint, scoring more points and more efficiently than ever, he set a new career mark for games played. Beal only missed five games after being absent for 27 games the year before and 19 games the year before that. For years the knock on Beal was that he couldn't stay healthy, but Beal proved to himself and everyone else that his body can hold up and allow him to play the game the way he knows he can.

It would be understandable if an extra level of confidence comes from that. Beal has a full, healthy season under his belt where he put up numbers worthy of an All-Star nod. Now knowing he can stay healthy, perhaps Beal can be even more aggressive on both ends of the floor. We saw some of that last year with Beal attacking the rim like he hadn't before. Expect his growth in being able to get to the rack to continue.

Beal made significant strides last season with his ball-handling, which helped him get to the rim and, in turn, the free throw line more often. Another offseason of working on his handle could help Beal (4.4 FTA/g) get on John Wall's level (6.8 FTA/g) of drawing fouls. It would also continue to open up the floor for his three-point shot. 

Beal's development as a ball-handler is something head coach Scott Brooks is very excited about. Last season he used Beal sparingly as a point guard, granted sometimes out of necessity. This year, expect Brooks to deploy Beal more often in pick-and-rolls and as the floor general with Wall off the floor. Beal is becoming more and more versatile on both ends of the floor and it will only make the Wizards even harder to deal with.

If Beal has a year similar to 2016-17, he should be in good shape to make the All-Star team. His numbers were good enough last season and now several superstar wing players have left for the Western Conference.

Potential to improve: Ball-handling, passing, drawing fouls.

[RELATED: WHO WILL BE MOST-IMPROVED ON THE WIZARDS THIS YEAR?]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE WIZARDS STORIES

Quick Links

Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

usatsi_10354771.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

Marcin Gortat is a legend in his home country of Poland and on Wednesday night he paid homage to one of his predecessors.

Adam Wójcik, one of the most decorated Polish basketball players of all time, passed away in August after a battle with Leukemia. Months later, in the first game of the 2017-18 season, Gortat took the floor with Wójcik's initials, the date of his death, a cross and 'RIP' inscribed on his shoes.

Gortat went out and delivered one of the best games of his career. He had 16 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, just the third time in his 11 NBA seasons he has posted those numbers. His production was pivotal in the Wizards' 120-115 win over the Sixers in their season opener.

"I'm just glad I did that wearing the initials of the greatest players from Poland, Adam Wójcik," Gortat said. "I'm glad in the first game, we came up with a win."

[RELATED: WALL, BEAL RECALL THEIR NBA DEBUTS]

Ten of Gortat's points came in the fourth quarter, as he consistently fed off pick-and-roll mismatches. John Wall found him over and over, including for a big dunk that allowed Gortat to do his signature Polish Hammer celebration.

That Wall-to-Gortat combination is something head coach Scott Brooks wants to see more of.

"It’s simple for him. I’ve been telling him for about a year and at the start of this season," Brooks said. "You run into your screen and you roll out, and you’re going to get open looks. We have some special players handling the ball. They’re going to have to guard with an extra man and if he rolls hard, he’s going be able to finish."

Wójcik died at just 47 years old after a long and successful basketball career. He won eight Polish League championships and won MVP three times. Gortat and Wójcik played together for the Polish national team and Wójcik is someone Gortat looked up to for a long time.

"I dedicate this game to him," he said.

[RELATED: PODCAST - WIZARDS TIPOFF SEASON PREVIEW]

Quick Links

John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

usatsi_10354489_1.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 120-115 in their regular season opener on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.

How it happened: As fun and talented as the upstart Sixers are, with two No. 1 picks making their NBA debuts in Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons and an enigmatic star in Joel Embiid, they didn't have enough on Wednesday night, as the Wizards let their seasoned veterans go to work in the second half to pull out a season-opening victory. 

Bradley Beal and John Wall found their rhythm in the third quarter, helping the Wizards outscore the Sixers 34-23 in the frame. Beal had 11 points and shot 6-for-6 from the free throw line, while Wall put up 14 points. The two combined for 25 of the Wizards' 34 points in the fourth quarter.

Beal finished with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists and Wall with 28 points, eight assists and five rebounds, including this dunk that was pure, unaldurated disrespect:

The Sixers made a push in the fourth quarter, opening the frame with a 13-2 run. But as the quarter continued, the Wizards put on a display of dunks that kept the crowd on their side. Kelly Oubre, Jr. threw down a putback slam on a Beal missed three that helped key a 12-4 run. Marcin Gortat (16 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks) had 10 points in the fourth quarter, several assisted by Wall including a big dunk that inspired a Polish Hammer celebration.

The Wizards were in command in the first quarter, leading by nine at the end of the frame. Otto Porter scored their first eight points on 4-of-5 from the field. But the Sixers charged back, shooting 56 percent in the second quarter to take a three-point lead at halftime.

Robert Covington (surprise) led the Sixers in scoring with 29 points. Simmons (NBA debut) and Embiid each had 18, while Fultz was limited to 10 points in 17 minutes in his first game.

The Sixers cut it to two with a minute left before Jerryd Bayless threw an earrant pass into the hands of Beal. Beal then stole the ball on a save by Otto Porter with 20.5 seconds left. He was fouled and hit one free throw. Philly couldn't answer, as J.J. Redick missed a three from straightaway center.

The Wizards later closed it out at the free throw line with Beal knocking down two with just 2.0 seconds remaining. He went 12-for-16 from the charity stripe for the night. The Wizards shot 30-of-38 from the line, exactly double the attempts Philly got.

RELATED: GORTAT PLAYS WITH HEAVY HEART

What it means: The Wizards are off to a 1-0 start, which is important considering their travel-heavy schedule early on. They want to avoid what happened last year, when they started 2-8, and Wednesday night was a good first step.

Early returns good from bench: It was one game, but the Wizards' bench looked solid, especially considering they are a group depleted by injuries. Jodie Meeks was the offensive spark they signed him to be. He made it look easy with 14 points in 19 minutes. Tim Frazier mainly played the role of distributor with five assists and zero points. Oubre did a little bit of everything with 14 points, seven rebounds and three three-pointers in 32 minutes. He carried a heavy load once Smith went out. Mike Scott scored inside and out and finished with seven points in 14 minutes. 

Gun shy early: Scott Brooks could not have been happy with the Wizards attempting just eight threes as a team in the first half. Beal and Porter combined for one attempt, while Oubre and Wall led the team with two attempts apiece. Brooks wants guys like Beal and Porter to attempt at least five threes a game. It was likely a point of emphasis at halftime, because Beal knocked down a triple just 1:36 into the third quarter. Oubre stole the ball and found Beal, who swished one over Embiid.

Injury news: Jason Smith got the start at power forward, but only played 7:04 before exiting with a sprained right shoulder. He jogged to the locker room with trainers and never returned. This is extra noteworthy considering he was the replacement for Markieff Morris, who is out for several more weeks following sports hernia surgery. He will get an MRI on Thursday, per Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington.

Up next: The Wizards stay home for their second game, hosting the Detroit Pistons at 7 p.m. That game will be on NBC Sports Washington. After that they head west for a four-game road trip.

[RELATED: NBA POWER RANKINGS]