On Thursday, July 13 CSN will air specials on John Wall (7 p.m.) and Bradley Beal (8 p.m.). Part of CSN's 'Summer Series,' the hour-long shows will look at the impact each has made on the Wizards following the best season for the franchise since the 1970s. To help preview Beal's special, here is a look at his road to stardom with the Wizards...
Bradley Beal’s path to a $128 million max contract wasn’t ideal. It was a rocky one which is why he entered 2016-17 with quite a bit to prove individually while balancing his ambition with team goals.
He accomplished both in his fifth NBA season, posting career highs in points (23.1), field-goal shooting (48.2%) and assists (3.5).
Beal should’ve been named as a replacement to make his first All-Star Game but NBA commissioner instead chose Carmelo Anthony before later acknowledging maybe he should’ve gone another route.
Beal was that deserving. He posted his first 40-point game in a 106-101 win against the Phoenix Suns, shooting 14-for-22 for 42 points in the victory. Then he had three more games of 40-plus vs. L.A. Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers.
He put the ball on the floor and created his own shot, using hesitation dribbles and stepbacks to diversify his attack. Beal erased his reputation as just a catch-and-shoot player. He was allowed by coach Scott Brooks to run the offense more, too, and did it efficiently.
In the postseason, Beal struggled in most of a first-round series vs. the Atlanta Hawks until a closeout Game 6 in which he combined with John Wall to score 73 of their 115 points.
Where he flourished in the next round, a seven-game series loss to the Boston Celtics, was on the defensive end. Coach Scott Brooks put him on Isaiah Thomas and that helped flip an 0-2 deficit to 2-2.
Beal had five games of 31 points or more in the playoffs. And he averaged a career-high 24.8 points there despite shooting less than 30% from three-point range Beal made almost 60% of his shots inside the arc.
Beal’s defense went overlooked on a team that didn’t defend well overall. He got no votes for the NBA All-Defensive teams while the likes of Thomas, Steph Curry and Damian Lillard did.
Beal doesn’t make the highlight reels for spectacular blocked shots or acrobatic dunks. He plays solid position defense, doesn’t reach in and allow automatic dribble penetration and tries to use his size (6-4) and physical strength to force shooters to finish over him.
It’s why Beal and Wall now are considered the best backcourt in the East – ahead of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of Toronto – and probably only second to Curry and Klay Thompson of Golden State.
But the biggest number Beal put up in the season is 77. That’s the number of games he played in out of 82.
It’s a career-high coming off a career-low of 55 appearances in 2015-16 in which the Wizards failed to make the playoffs.
The recurring stress reactions in Beal’s lower right leg that interrupted each of his first four seasons evaporated.
Brooks managed his minutes on and off the court better. The medical staff, which was revamped by Wizards vice president Tommy Sheppard, was more pro-active as well.
It all worked out.
If there’s even more to be seen from Beal, as Michael Jordan would say, “the ceiling is the roof.”
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