Wizards

Strickland wowed by Beal’s growth as he closes in on scoring record

Wizards

As things stand, Washington Wizards shooting guard and franchise centerpiece Bradley Beal is just 255 points shy of passing Bullets legend and Basketball Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes as the team’s all-time leading scorer.

If Beal continues on his trend of scoring a hair over 23 points per game as he has done so far this season, it’d take him just 11 more games to overtake ‘The Big E’. Washington has 14 more games during this current regular season, so it’s entirely possible one of the biggest milestones in D.C. basketball history could be surpassed before the offseason hits.

But it was never a sure shot that Beal would have the type of career as a Wizard that he’s currently enjoying. Rod Strickland, former Washington point guard and fan favorite, watched Beal play in college at Florida and couldn’t be more pleased with his development over his now-11-year career.

“You know what’s so funny about Bradley Beal? I was at Kentucky, he was at Florida, and I promise you this: me and [current Louisville head coach] Kenny Payne used to sit on the bench and watch him warm up. I used to say, ‘Man, his form is so good,’ but he didn’t shoot that great a percentage in college,” Strickland said during the Wizards’ loss to the Hawks on Friday. 

“And I used to sit there like, ‘Man, it looks good but it doesn’t always go in.’ And then you see him now.”

 

It’s true – Beal’s shooting stats in college (although they still were very good by the standards of NCAA basketball) don’t hold a candle to his current NBA clip. In his one year as a Florida Gator in 2011-12, Beal shot 45% from the field and just 34% from three to average a hair under 15 points per game.

Slowly but surely, Beal molded and developed his shot to be one of the deadliest in pro basketball. He struggled at first, shooting under 43% from the field in each of his first three seasons as a Wizard. Now in his 11th year, he’s averaging a career-high 51% clip from the field. He’s also shooting 36% from deep (his best since his 2017-18 All-Star season) and puts up a 55% effective field goal percentage (his best since 2017 and second-best in his career).

“He’s so efficient, he knows how to play three levels, the pivot work, can come off the ball screen, can create for others and also get his own shot,” Strickland said. “He just seems real smooth. He just plays. He plays the game like it’s supposed to be played.”

Though Beal isn’t enjoying a career year in terms of point production – that came in 2020-21 when he finished second in the NBA to Steph Curry with 31.3 ppg – there’s a very good reason for that. Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis provide a very sturdy supporting cast, as both veterans average over 20 points per game and take some of the scoring burden off Beal. 

Washington surely has their work cut out for them over these final 14 games if they wish to qualify for the play-in tournament and then potentially a playoff series. They sit at 31-37 on the year, half a game behind the 10th-place Bulls and the last play-in spot.

Regardless of whether the Wizards make the playoffs, history could be on the horizon for the Wizards’ centerpiece as he could pass Hayes for the franchise’s all-time scoring mark.

“Wow, wow. That’s big time. Well-deserved,” Strickland of Beal’s potentially imminent milestone. “I love his game.”