With training camp starting later this month, we at NBC Sports are previewing the season for each player on the Wizards' roster.
Today, we look at Bradley Beal, who took a major step in his player progression last season.
In the wake of John Wall's lingering injuries, Beal rose to the occasion and became a bona fide star, earning his first All-Star appearance.
WIZARDS 2018-19 ROSTER OUTLOOK: BRADLEY BEAL
Player: Bradley Beal
Position: Shooting guard
2018-19 salary: $25.4 million
2017-18 stats: 82 G, 36.3 mpg, 22.6 ppg, 4.5 apg, 4.4 rpg, 1.2 spg, 0.4 bpg, 46.0 FG%, 37.5 3P%, 79.1 FT%, 52.7 eFG%, 109 ORtg, 110 DRtg
2018-19 storyline: Bradley Beal was already very good, yet no one on the Wizards arguably took a bigger step forward in their careers than he did last season. The shooting guard had a breakout year that earned him his first All-Star nod and the acclaim many in D.C. felt he long deserved.
Beal did it by staying healthy and adding to his game. The same goals will apply for him this upcoming season, though the priorities may have to change.
The fact he played 82 games in 2017-18 was remarkable, especially given his prior injury history. But the added depth to the Wizards’ roster, most notably with Austin Rivers as his backup, should, in theory, lessen the load for guys like Beal and John Wall.
Beal played the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season. It would be for the best if that number goes down. The more Beal can rest late in wins that were secured earlier in games, the better.
Beal’s efficiency numbers could and likely will go up as long as the Wizards avoid major injuries. His shooting percentages dipped because he was a greater focus of the offense. With Wall missing 41 games this past season, Beal became the No. 1 option. Though he thrived in that role, the greater attention of opposing defenses had an effect.
Beal did a strong job of diversifying his game with improvement as a rebounder and passer. He posted career-highs in many categories outside of scoring and they helped him become an All-Star.
Next for Beal could simply be incremental improvement across the board, especially as a scorer. Now that he has proven in two straight seasons he can average 22-23 points, can he find a new level and assert himself as one of the very best scorers in the NBA? Beal is the Wizards’ most gifted scorer and the more he develops as a ball-handler will be the key to him going from an All-Star to an All-NBA superstar.
There is always more to grow for young players like Beal on the defensive end. Limiting his workload on the offensive end could help that cause, particularly late in games.
Beal has shown the ability to be one of the Wizards’ best on-ball defenders and some of the numbers out there reflect well on his abilities to man the perimeter. He contests more three-point shots than anyone on the Wizards and last year ranked ninth in the NBA.
The next step for Beal may simply be more consistency. He also has the potential to force more turnovers. Last season he averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game, but has the athleticism and instincts to cause even more havoc in open space.
The presence of Dwight Howard could have an effect on Beal and others in the first line of defense. The fact they have a capable rim protector behind them may change their approach and open up new possibilities in how and where they try to direct opponents off the dribble.
Health is always key for Beal and this year will be no different. If he can remain available, it will be fascinating to watch how he builds off the best season of his career.
Potential to improve: Efficiency, late-game offense, midrange defense
2018-19 WIZARDS ROSTER OUTLOOK: