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Bradley Beal proved worth his max contract in first year of new deal with Wizards

Bradley Beal proved worth his max contract in first year of new deal with Wizards

Through four years with John Wall since he signed his deal and one year with Bradley Beal, the Wizards are a convincing 2-for-2 in handing out max contract extensions. Both Wall and Beal got paid handsomely and, despite their fair share of critics, each immediately got a lot better. They did something that is a lot easier said than done: once they got their money, they kept improving and in doing so made their contracts look better and better after actually signing them.

That's the best-case scenario for the Wizards and their front office deserves credit for both deals. They technically could have let either walk in free agency or traded them, as some in the media suggested they should. They chose to keep both for top-dollar deals and since have been rewarded for it.

Beal signed his new deal, a five-year contract worth $128 million, last July. It was a max contract for a guy who had never made an All-Star team and who had battled injuries, including last season when he only played in 55 games and only started 35. Naturally, some wondered if he was worth the money because of his problems staying healthy through four NBA seasons. 

But in his first year under a new contract, Beal achieved newfound durability. He had some minor issues here and there, but managed to play 77 out of the Wizards' 82 games and then appear in all of their 13 playoff games.

"If anything, I'm proud of that. I'm happy for myself, being able to be healthy for a full year," Beal said. "Being able to be on the floor, man, that's all I wanted. Just being able to be here. I knew if I was healthy that I would have a successful year. I had that opportunity this season."

[RELATED: Brooks proved a great fit in his first year with the Wizards]

Wall knows something about proving his critics wrong. He signed his max deal in July of 2013, before he had made an All-Star team and after he played just 49 games in an injury-plagued season. In the four years since, Wall has been an All-Star each time and this past season earned his first All-NBA selection.

Beal was not seleced for the All-Star Game this past year, but did put up career-bests in points per game (23.1), field goal percentage (48.4), free throw attempts (4.4) and assists (3.5). Wall believes his backcourt mate made a significant leap in his game.

"I feel like he should have been an All-Star. He's proven to himself that he earned his money when everybody said he didn't," Wall explained. "It's the same thing I went through. Now all he can do is take that as motivation going forward into next season. He has improved dramatically in so many areas that helped us and helped me and my game."

The ways Beal improved were obvious. His free throw attempts and field goal percentage naturally went up because he got better at earning his own shots. His ballhandling was worlds better: he developed a deadly stepback jumper and a respected crossover, and gained confidence attacking the rim.

Beal attempted 23.8 percent of his shots at three feet from the rim or closer, a career-high. He took 41.8 percent of his attempts from three-point range, also a career-high. For Beal, it was simple, spread the floor or attack the rim with impunity.

Beal's ability to break down defenses off the dribble led to more open shots. It also allowed him to run point guard at times within coach Scott Brooks' system, something many shooting guards aren't capable of.

Still, for Beal, it's the health that stands out most.

"The same thing is going to happen next season. I just have to stay within my regiment. No days off. Just continue to focus on my body and make sure I'm doing the right things," he said.

Beal has long been a dangerous shooter and above average defensive player and those attributes continued to improve in 2016-17. Now he can scare opponents with his dribbling and passing abilities. Add it all up and he's developing into one of the more complete players at the shooting guard position. That sounds like somebody who is worth the contract he signed.

[RELATED: Durant says don't blame him for lopsided NBA Playoffs]

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Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

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USA Today Sports

Five observations from Wizards' 115-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets despite Dwight Howard's huge night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 115-104 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

Step back: The Wizards just can't crack the code of consistency or the pesky Brooklyn Nets.

After winning three straight and looking like they had made some corrections, the Wizards stumbled out of the locker room at halftime and couldn't match Brooklyn's energy. The Nets pulled away to lead by as many as 19 and handed the Wizards yet another blowout loss in a season of which are quickly piling up.

The Nets have the formula to give the Wizards fits. They are scrappy and play defense. They are cohesive and well-coached. The Wizards are susceptible against try-hards who play with a chip on their shoulder. They too often let others set the tone and that's just what the Nets did in this one. 

The Wizards are now 5-10 on the season. That matches their 15-game start from two years ago, when they rallied to win 49 games, but that only means so much, of course.

Threes were off: While their attempts are up, the Wizards have been shooting uncharacteristically bad from three this season. They entered the game 27th in the NBA, shooting just 32.8 percent.

In this game, they didn't just struggle to make threes, they had trouble shooting them at all. Brooklyn sold out to take away the perimeter and was successful doing it. 

The Wizards went 3-for-17 from three and shot just 17.6 percent. They were 2-for-13 entering the fourth quarter.

Surely, head coach Scott Brooks won't be happy about that. Three-point shooting continues to be a major point of emphasis for him.

Howard was dominant early: Perhaps we should have expected this from Dwight Howard. After all, it was the Nets, the team Howard was bought out by over the summer, right before he signed with the Wizards. 

Was three days with a franchise enough for a revenge game? Sure, we'll go with it.

Or, perhaps he's just a bad matchup for Brooklyn because they were the team he smacked around for 32 points and 30 rebounds against last season.

He didn't quite go 30-30, but Howard was unstoppable in the first half. He ate Jarrett Allen, who is a very talented young player, for lunch. Allen and the rest of the Nets' frontline were no match for Howard's strength.

Howard popped off for six of the Wizards' first eight points. By halftime, he had 17 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a block.

This game was a reminder of the fact he can do things his predecessor, Marcin Gortat, cannot. Howard, really, can produce in a way no Wizards' fourth option has been able to in years.

Markieff Morris has often served as the fourth scoring option behind John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. But Morris doesn't often go off for nearly a double-double in a half. 

But, the second half:  What was strange about Howard, though, is that he barely played in the second half until the game was out of hand. Howard picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, but that didn't explain it all.

Howard played only five minutes from the start of the second half until there were less than nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. During that stretch, Allen found success against the Wizards' small-ball lineups and helped the Nets pull away.

By the time Howard returned, the Wizards were down 19 points. Brooks had something that was working really well and, in part because of the fouls, he went away from it a little too long. It proved costly.

Morris struggled: As good as Howard was, Morris had one of his worst games of the season. The Wizards power forward had one of those nights we see far too often where he wasn't active enough on defense or on the boards. He couldn't get anything going offensively, either.

Morris, who ended the game with four points and two rebounds in 20 minutes, had zero points and zero rebounds in nine minutes in the first quarter. 

While the Nets' big men were overmatched by Howard's strength, Morris couldn't keep up with their quickness. He was a step behind and had trouble matching their bounce around the rim.

Morris predictably didn't play at all in the fourth quarter. That's the way it goes with Brooks now.

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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Wizards rising, are Warriors falling?

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2018-19 NBA power rankings: Wizards rising, are Warriors falling?

The start to the 2018-19 NBA season did not go smoothly for a handful of teams. The Wizards started 2-9, but have since won three straight. The Lakers, with LeBron James leading the way, started 2-5 but have won six of their last seven games.

Even the Rockets, considered one of the top contenders for the 2018-19 NBA championship, started slow, losing five of their first six games. But since the calendar switched from October to November, the Rockets turned things around, having won six of eight.

Click here to view the latest 2018-19 NBA Power Rankings

What about the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Steph Curry and company lost just once in their first 11 games, but have dropped three of their last five games amid turmoil between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. The Warriors are still clearly the favorites to win the NBA title again, but are they still perched atop our power rankings?

Here is a look at all 30 teams...

Click here to view the latest 2018-19 NBA Power Rankings

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