With three seasons under his belt, Bradley Beal has yet to get through one without injury. He missed most of preseason and the first nine regular-season games with a broken left wrist and had his third stress reaction in his lower right leg for the third year in a row. That hiccup cost him nine games, too. But the way Beal shined in the playoffs, especially when John Wall missed three games with a broken left wrist himself, gave a glimpse of what he can be when he’s healthy and fully locked in on both ends.
The stats: 15.3 points, 3.0 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 40.9% three-point shooting (career high).
The improvements: Given the start-and-stop nature to Beal’s season, these weren't obvious until the playoffs. His ball distribution went to another level which gives the Wizards a viable perimeter option other than Wall off the dribble. As their best shooter, Beal grew more aggressive in looking for his shot and taking initiative rather than allowing the opposing to defense make him settle. It resulted in Beal getting to the basket and foul line more. And his defense of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver, both All-Stars, in the playoffs was key to the Wizards’ success. This is the first time Beal has shown the ability to be a consistent two-way player, and his offensive output increased with more emphasis he placed on his defense. That's a good sign.
The ranking: Everything with Beal is about potential. There are countless scorers and shooting guards to contend with for recognition, though in the East there are few. Beal has trailed the likes of DeRozan and the aging Dwyane Wade but that should change soon.
The next step: Like with Wall, where Beal can gain separation from the pack is with his defense. Being an All-Star is a realistic possibility provided he can have a relatively pain-free fourth season. His offseason should involve a lot of ball-handling to make him a better creator off the dribble so he can get to the rim. Beal should never have multiple games of not getting to the foul line like he had this past season. A better handle will help him manufacture his offense.
2014-15 grade: C+.
2015-16 outlook: An All-Star Game selection as a reserve and 20-plus points per game.