Beal emerges into bona fide star during career year

Apr 15, 2019 | by Zach Rosen, NBA.com/Wizards

After making his first NBA All-Star team in the 2017-18 season, Bradley Beal was hungry for more in his seventh season. He wanted to be an All-Star caliber player for the second straight year to demonstrate consistency and improvement. Beal didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder; he was out to prove that he belonged in the conversation as one of the best players in the league.

Last season, Beal was asked to play a bigger role when John Wall missed 41 games. It wasn’t easy, as he had to change the way he played and become much more of a decision-maker. Still, he embraced the challenge, and helped keep his team in position to make the playoffs. Wall came back at the end of the 2017-18 season, but the Wizards lost to the Raptors in six games in the first round of the postseason.

When Wall went down again in late December this season, the franchise was put on Beal’s shoulders once again. The result put extra pressure on him for a second straight season to carry the load and try to lead the Wizards to success. This time, however, he knew what to expect.

Beal’s growth on the court guided the Wizards through a challenging season. The Florida product played the final 47 games without his All-Star backcourt mate in Wall, scoring 27.2 points per game. Without Wall, teams would double-team, trap, and load up on Beal; yet, he would still find ways to deliver. Beal won the Eastern Conference Player of the Week award twice and was selected to his second straight All-Star Game. He finished the season averaging 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game, all career-highs. All Beal cares about at the end of the day is winning, but it was hard to ignore his career year.

“Granted, we did not have the season we wanted,” Beal says, “but there’s a lot of things we can build off of. A lot of positives we can take from it and definitely happy and proud of the way I played this year.”

“That’s a testimony to how much hard work he put in throughout the summer and season, preparing himself,” Wall said of Beal’s season back in February. “That’s why I felt like he should have been an All-Star starter. With the numbers he’s put up and carrying this team throughout the year, being in the Eastern Conference with 20-point games and 40-point triple-doubles. You don’t see too many other guards doing that other than probably James Harden.”

Beal became the first player in franchise history to average at least 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game in a season. He was also the first player in franchise history to score 2,000 points, grab 400 rebounds, and dish out 400 assists in a season, joining the likes of Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and other Hall of Famers and current All-Stars. He's just the 21st player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. Beal’s 40-point, 15-assist triple-double on December 22 against the Suns was only the 10th of its kind in NBA history. He did it again on January 13 against the Raptors, posting 43 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists.

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