The differences in Bradley Beal's game may not be obvious to someone who doesn't see all of his games, or who only sees the raw numbers that show his shooting from three-point range and overall are down. He may have yet to prove he's a $128 million max player, but Beal is not the same stationary catch-and-shoot three-point shooter for the Wizards.
Before his last two games, 34 vs. the Miami Heat and a career-high 42 vs. the Phoenix Suns, Beal has had a committment to attack with hesitation dribbles, get into the lane and finish in traffic. It's not long ball or nothing anymore.
"Ball-handling, for sure," Beal said of where he believes he has improved most after he shooting 14-for-22 from the field Monday night. "Being comfortable with creating my own shot and creating for my teammates. Being able to utilize the pick-and-roll to my advantage, and being able to run off screens the right way. I've had a lot of good vets that I have been fortunate to play alongside the last couple of years... taking stuff from them and implementing them in my game has helped me out a lot."
Beal was 9-for-11 on free throws Monday. Earlier this season, a total of 10 games played, he set a career-hgh with 14 attempts for the first win vs. the Atlanta Hawks.
By comparison, in the entire 2015-16 season for Beal, when he played a career-low 55 games because of various injuries, he never broke double digits in free throw attempts in any game. In 24 of those games, he attempted two or fewer free throws.
He has had some similar stretches already this season, a product of being stationary on the weakside of the ball and not being involving himself in the offense, but has to force the issue more.
Devin Booker, a second-year player for the Suns who had 30 points Monday, frequently screens voluntarily -- not by design or call from anyone -- to keep himself active. Sometimes a defender gets preoccoupied watching the ball on the strong side of the floor and Booker ends up with a clean look from three on the pop to the arc.
"We have so many threats on the floor, teams have to help," said Beal, who missed three games with a right hamstring injury and just returned. "I'm fine with being a decoy. If they're going to continue to ball watch, I'm going to continue to move without the ball."
Though it would be ideal for Beal to fill up the stat sheet by averaging more than 2.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists at this point, his No. 1 responsibility as a shooting guard is to score. He has never averaged more than 20 points per game for a season, but this could be the year he gets over that hump.