The only way Bradley Beal can be held back from being a first-time All-Star, it would seem, is if he's not healthy. He's going into tonight's game as day-to-day for the Wizards after spraining his right ankle.
Along with point guard John Wall, who had a game-high 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Wednesday's win vs. the Indiana Pacers, Beal is having his best season and has played a big part in why the Wizards have won seven of their last 10. A win over the Brooklyn Nets at Verizon Center tonight and they'll be at .500 which seemed almost impossible just a month ago.
Wall has been an All-Star three times. Beal, in his fifth season, is coming off a career-low 55 games played. He's not only a possible All-Star, but he has to be in the conversation for the NBA's Most Improved Player, too.
"I get goosebumps just thinking about it. That would be awesome for this city," said Beal, who is averaging 21.8 points, 3.6 assists, 45 percent shooting and 39 percent from three. "For how long me and John have been together, finally getting to be All-Stars together that would be great. I've lost count with how many he's made it. It'll be awesome. It'll be great for our team. Great camaraderie."
Before Beal rolled his right ankle, he was headed for a big night vs. Indiana. He shot 4 of 6 in the first quarter and his stepback jumper was working. He didn't have a good shooting night in the previous game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks but was 9-for-10 from the foul line to manufacture many of his 22 points. When defenses overload coverages on him to take away his looks, Beal is making the pocket passes to get easy buckets for others which happened when he posted a career-high nine assists in a win over the Charlotte Hornets. His game is becoming more complete.
"He didn’t have a great shooting start of this season," said Wizards coach Scott Brooks, who lost Beal for three games to a right hamstring strain before he got on a hot streak. "At times he would get down on himself. You want to be known as a jump shooter or you want to be known as a player that’s going to be special? If you want to rely on being a jump shooter you're going to have a rollercoaster career because you're going to have games that you make shots and games that you don't. His ability to be a complete player is what we want out of him every night."
Beal isn't just catching and shooting while Wall does all of the work to set up teammates. They're sharing more of that workload. Beal's hesitation dribble has freed him repeatedly to finish at the rim. He's getting to the free-throw line a career-high 5.2 times per game and the frequency is rising.
"I feel like my playmaking, whether it's for myself or my teammates, I've been putting the ball on the floor," Beal said of where he has made the most progress. "I'm more confident shooting my three off the dribble, my passing is a lot better. In my previous years, my passing wasn't that good and my pick-and-roll offense wasn't in the right percentages where it needed to be."
He'd often hit Marcin Gortat in the shins with those bounces passes when he was trapped. Beal is accepting the pressure on and off the court. He signed a $128 million max contract in the offseason and is living up to it a little more each step of the way.
All-Star voting has opened and he has until Jan. 16, when it closes, to make his case that he belongs in New Orleans for the Feb. 19 showcase. If the popular vote doesn't get him in, the league's coaches vote for reserves.
"Those are my goals," Beal said. " I don't focus on it. I don't pay attention to it. It's not my say so. I just go out and play and just control what I can control."
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