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Morning tip: All-Star recognition in Bradley Beal's grasp, and it gives him 'goosebumps'

Morning tip: All-Star recognition in Bradley Beal's grasp, and it gives him 'goosebumps'

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."

MORE WIZARDS: John Wall reacts to game being bumped from national TV

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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