When Beal declared for the 2012 draft, his combination of 6-5 size and excellent mechanics made him the top shooting guard prospect. After a slow start to the season – somewhat attributed to the injury absence oF backcourt mate John Wall – he has found his rhythm and is shooting better than 46 percent from the field since New Year’s Day.
However, Beal also has shown remarkable mental and physical toughness throughout his rookie campaign, which you love to see in a 19-year-old.
Beal didn’t give in when the Washington Wizards lost their first 11 games en route to a 4-28 start. He didn’T give in when he shot roughly 35 percent from the field during that stretch. And he didn’t give in to the physical nature of the NBA, whether the shots came from opponents or teammates.
He did miss five games due to a sore right wrist but returned sooner than expected. Soon after his return, he chipped a couple of teeth in a practice collision with Cartier Martin, leaving some pieces in Martin’s scalp.
The following night against Denver, Beal ran into a cameraman and also banged his head on the floor after preventing a layup by Ty Lawson. After taking a moment to get the bells to stop ringing, Beal stayed in the game and sank a pair of free throws that sealed a win.
“It’s been a tough week,” Beal admitted.
“It seems like every game he’s going down hard,” teammate A.J. Price said. “He plays hard.”
Beal also is playing well. Over the last seven games, he is averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. During that stretch, he has shot 49 percent (50-of-101) overall, 42 percent (14-of-33) from the arc and 83 percent (24-of-29) from the line.
The Wizards are 4-3 in that stretch, with road wins over Milwaukee and Toronto – they had just three road wins prior to those two – and back-to-back home wins over prospective playoff teams Denver and Houston.
In the win over the Nuggets, Beal had 17 points – and a season-high 12 rebounds. In the win over the Rockets, Beal had 21 points – and a key offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
“I feel a lot more comfortable and I have a lot more confidence as well,” Beal said. “It’s a learning process for me and it’s been like that the whole year. Now the game is slowing down for me, so I’m making easier reads. I’m starting to learn how teams are playing me and I’m just playing off of that.”
Beal has progressed to where the Wizards use him in late-game situations to either score or create for others. With Wall struggling in Wednesday’s home game vs. Detroit, coach Randy Wittman had Beal take a dribble handoff for an isolation on their final possession.
Beal drove and drew defenders, but his kickout pass to Martell Webster was off target.
Trevor Ariza had to rush a shot that missed at the buzzer, even though Wizards broadcaster Steve Buckhantz saw it differently.
Beal certainly has work to do, in that area and others. But he is leaving quite an impression on his teammates – and not just with his teeth.
“He’s legit. He’s a player,” Ariza said. “When you’re a player you make plays and do things to help your team win.”
“He’s been playing great basketball over the last two weeks,” Webster said. “The kid is balling. He has a great rhythm, let’s hope he keeps riding it.”
On to the rankings.