A bit under the radar, Washington's shooting guard Bradley Beal was on fire recently. His scoring performances over the first five games of the season: 24, 26, 26, 25, 24.
Heralded as a prodigious shooter since his high school days, Beal reached the whole new level over the last two weeks.
He made 16 of 32 attempts behind the 3-point line, and is shooting almost 50% from the field as well. The Big Panda has something to prove in this league, and his teammates count on him to continue with similar production.
Taken 3rd overall in the 2012 NBA draft after spending one year with Florida Gators under the guidance of coach Billy Donovan, Beal finally started justifying all the hype surrounding him. Back in 2011 he was ranked 4th in the nation among the top prospects.
Experts compared him with none other than Ray Allen, NBA's all-time leader in 3-pointers made. It's hard to meet such enormous expectations, but Bradley obviously isn't the one to shy away and quit easily.
His talent was never questionable, but his durability was. So far, young guard has missed 54 regular season games. The main concern comes from his ankles. Due to the bunch of annoying injuries and setbacks, Beal was unable to become consistent, though he had some red-hot shooting sprees in the past.
The Wizards were making some noise in the postseason lately, winning playoff series against the Bulls in 2014 and the Raptors last season. To go further, they need Beal at his best shape. Developing his skills must be among the franchise's priorities.
John Wall is the best player on the team, but Beal is Washington's go-to scorer and primary offensive weapon. The two are perfectly suited to play together. Wall has superb athleticism; he is among five fastest players in the NBA, a lockdown defender and crafty passer who can influence the game in many ways.
On the other hand, Beal possesses razor-sharp shooting touch, excellent off-ball movements, precise timing and he is physically gifted enough to be considered a serious threat for any defense.
Beal's usage rate right now is 28,6%, which closely resembles those of team's best player. He showed improved aggressiveness in attacking the rim and helping his centers on the boards.
What's more important, Beal displays maturity beyond his age (he's just 22) and that has something to do with Paul Pierce. The Truth spent just one year in D.C. but his presence left lasting legacy there.
As a proven winner with the reputation of being clutch, and also regarded as fierce trash-talker, Pierce surely was a role model during his stint with young Wizards squad. Confidence was never an issue for Pierce, and Beal learned from him that if you don't believe in your abilities, nobody will.
Beal obviously worked on his leadership skills, and that pays off. He burned the Bucks, great defensive team, in less than 30 minutes of action, hitting 5 of 6 shots from downtown. Then he went toe to toe against Kawhi Leonard, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and sparked Washington's win with 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left on the shot clock.
Five games is a small sample, no doubt, but this is encouraging sign for the Wizards. Bradley Beal is becoming a star they need him to be. He fills the box score and loudly announces up and coming All-Star campaign. Maybe he won't be credited for that this season, but in the near future it's inevitable.
One may or may not agree, but with Harden and Thompson struggling at the start of the season and with Kobe and Wade being struck by Father Time, Beal blossomed into the best shooting guard in the game right now.
The role he was predestined for.
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