Milestones to watch as the Wizards' season resumes
With the NBA set to resume on July 31 with 22 teams at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fl., the Wizards will conclude a season-long performance that, by most accounts, exceeded preseason expectations. In a year in which the organization’s focus was on development, Bradley Beal’s historic season, surprise performances from a few new names and a deep rotation bolstered by seven players 22-years-old or younger have the Wizards within reach of a playoff spot with eight regular season games to go.
While most eyes will be on the standings as Washington tries to chase down Orlando and Brooklyn for a playoff spot, a number of significant statistical milestones are on the line: franchise scoring and 3-point records, a battle for the league’s best bench unit, an historic free throw shooting season and more. Here is a look at some of the most significant Wizards milestones to watch over the final eight games of the season.
Bradley Beal’s scoring average
As of today, Beal is averaging 30.5 points per game, joining James Harden (34.4) as the only players in the league averaging over 30.0 points per game. Finishing a season above the 30-point threshold is a significant feat, even in a modern NBA with faster paced offenses and a higher volume of 3-point shooting. Excluding Harden, who has hit the mark in each of the last three seasons, only 10 players have done so in the last 30 seasons.
The 30.5-point average that Beal will bring with him to Orlando has come in a variety of ways. Beal’s usage has certainly skyrocketed this season with John Wall on the sideline and a bevy of younger, developing players filling out most of the roster. Beal has been asked to carry a heavy load and has come through. While Beal is averaging career highs in 3-point field goals made (3.0) and attempted (8.4), much of the damage he’s done on the offensive end has resulted from an emphasis on getting more easy buckets. He’s shooting 51.5% from inside the arc and a career-best 84.2% from the line on 8.0 attempts per game, 2.5 more than his previous career high.
Assuming he plays in all eight of the Wizards’ remaining regular season games, Beal will have to average 26.1 points per game to keep his season average above 30.0, per Elias Sports Bureau. Doing so will be a challenge as he and the Wizards will match up exclusively with teams the league deemed to be in playoff contention. With that challenge, though, comes an opportunity. If Beal were to improve on his scoring average rather than just maintain it, he has a chance to break franchise record that has stood since the team’s first year of existence. Beal trails Walt Bellamy’s 1961-62 scoring record by just 1.1 points per game. To break Bellamy’s 58-year-old record, Beal will have average 39.1 points per game over the eight games, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Davis Bertans’ 3-point shooting
Bertans went into the league’s hiatus with exactly 200 3-pointers made this season, good for seventh in the league and first among reserve players. Bertans is averaging 3.7 threes per game –fourth in the league – and 5.9 threes per 100 possessions, trailing only Miami’s Duncan Robinson. The Latvian Laser knocked down three-plus 3-pointers in each of the final six games before the league’s suspension, including two games with eight, making him one of just nine players this season with multiple games with at least eight 3-pointers.
Entering the final eight games of the regular season, Bertans sits on the precipice of history. He needs just 24 threes to break Beal’s franchise record for most 3-pointers made in a single season (223) set in 2016-17. That year, Beal played 77 total games, averaging 2.9 threes per game. Prior to this season, no player has ever averaged more than 3.0 threes per game, a number Bertans will clear easily. If Bertans is to break Beal’s single-season record, he’ll do so playing in a maximum of 62 games.
Bertans’ season sits among the great shooting seasons of all time, but could soon sit alone when it comes to performances by a reserve. Bertans has come off the bench in all but four of his games played this season. This season, Bertans has 25 games off the bench with at least four 3-pointers and needs just three more such games to set a new NBA record.
For as impressive as Bertans’ long-range shooting volume has been all season, his efficiency has the historical weight to match it. He’s currently shooting 42.4% from three and is looking to become just the second player in league history to shoot over 40.0% from deep on at least 8.5 3-point attempts per game.
Wizards’ bench production
While Beal’s stellar campaign had grabbed the spotlight for most of the season, the Wizards’ depth has been the team’s secret weapon. Washington has eight players averaging at least 10.0 points per game, tied for the most in the league, a number buoyed by the group’s versatility, fitting into multiple roles and schemes as the Wizards’ circumstances changed throughout the season.
Heading to Orlando, the Wizards trail only the Clippers in bench scoring, 51.5 points per game to 49.6, and have a sizeable lead on the third-place Pistons (46.0). If Los Angeles was to maintain its 51.5 bench points per game average throughout the remaining eight regular season games, Washington’s bench would have to average 67.1 points per game to overtake them for the number one spot, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Wizards bench has been steady all season long and was crucial in an early January stretch when the team was decimated by injuries at key positions. In that time, the reserve unit came up bigger than it has all season, scoring 80, 57, 76 and 92 points respectively in a four-game stretch. The 92 points, recorded on January 4 against Denver, were the second-most since 1970-71, when the NBA began recording starters and bench players and the most since 1977 when the Warriors scored 94 bench points (per Elias Sports Bureau).
Beal’s scoring, playmaking and efficiency could put him in an elite group
Much like the scoring load he’s taking on in Wall’s absence, Beal’s been asked to handle the ball and facilitate the offense far more than he ever had in his career. He’s excelled in the role, averaging career highs in assists per game (6.1) and assist percentage (29.1) – and hasn’t seen a dip in his scoring volume (30.5 points per game) or efficiency (45.5% FG).
If Beal can maintain averages of 30.0 points per game, 6.0 assists and 45.0% from the field through the final eight games of the season, he’ll become just the fifth player since 1990-91 to hit those numbers and the first since 2015-16. The other four players to do so: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Stephen Curry.
Rui’s rookie season
Drafted ninth overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, Rui Hachimura has been exactly what a team looks for in a rookie player selected in that range. Excluding a 23-game absence in the middle of the season, Hachimura has started every game for the Wizards and his contributions have been consistent. He’s scored in double figures in 30 of his 41 games played and trails only Beal in minutes per game.
In the next eight games, Hachimura has a chance to solidify his debut season as one of the best in the franchise’s recent history. Hachimura is currently averaging 13.4 points per game, the fourth-most by a Wizards rookie since 2001-02 and only 0.5 points per game behind Beal’s 13.9 average in 2012-13. To surpass Beal, Hachimura will need to average 16.6 points per game over the Wizards’ eight games in Orlando.
In addition to his scoring, Hachimura’s rebounding this season also carries some historical significance. In these final eight games, he’ll look to secure the rookie rebounding title. Heading to Orlando, Hachimura leads all rookies in rebounds per game (6.0) among players with at least 40 games played. Memphis’ Brandon Clarke trails Hachimura at 5.8 per game while New Orleans’ Zion Williamson averages 6.7 boards per game, but has only played in 19 games.
Beal’s 40-point games
Beal’s scoring this season has been remarkably consistent, highlighted by a 21-game streak of 25 points or more – the longest streak in franchise history and the second-longest in the NBA in the last 10 years. Peaks and valleys in a player’s performance over the course of an 82-game season are expected, and while Beal’s valleys have been notably absent this year, it’s those peak performances that have defined his stellar season.
Including a pair of back-to-back 50-point games in late February, Beal has recorded 10 games with at least 40 points this season, the third-most in a single season in franchise history. With eight games to go, he still has a chance to climb to the top of that list. Beal needs just one more 40-point game to tie Gilbert Arenas (2005-06) and Bernard King (1990-91) for second all-time and two more to tie Walt Bellamy (1961-62) for first.
Franchise-best free throw percentage
Much of the Wizards’ offensive success this season can be attributed to their ability to get to the line consistently. The team ranks sixth in the league in both free throws made (19.5) and attempted (24.8) per game, but from a historical perspective, it’s been their reliability as the line that could go down in the franchise record books. As the regular season wraps up in Orlando, the Wizards will look to secure the best free throw shooting season in franchise history. The team is currently shooting 78.7% from the line, just barely edging out the 2016-17 season’s 78.4% as the previous best.