In year 10, Beal continues to add to his game

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After becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to average 30.0 points per game in back-to-back seasons – seasons in which he ranked top-five in the league in usage rate – Bradley Beal has seen his role change alongside a new-look Wizards team this season. Playing on one of the deepest rosters of his entire 10-year career, the three-time All-Star helped lead the Wizards to the second-best start in franchise history and has bounced back from an up-and-down December with his best basketball of the season in recent weeks.

Beal ranks ninth in the Eastern Conference in scoring at 24.1 points per game. Over the last seven games, including wins over the Jazz, Cavaliers and Hornets – all over .500 on the season – he is averaging 30.1 points per game on 50.0% from the field to go along with 8.1 assists per game.

The star guard’s most substantial development this season has come in the playmaking department. He’s led Washington in both scoring and assists in 22 of the team’s 38 games and is averaging a career-high 6.4 assists per game, highlighted by a career-high 17 dimes against the Bulls on New Year’s Day. The performance marked the second-straight game with at least 25 points and 10 assists, the first time in his career he notched back-to-back double-doubles.

Those performances came as the Wizards were playing without Spencer Dinwiddie, Aaron Holiday and Raul Neto, leaving them without any of their usual rotation point guards.

Beal stepped in and started at the point position two games in a row.

“I had to run the show,” Beal said after the 17-assist game against the Bulls. “I had to get guys shots. Before, it had been that balance of trying to figure out when to be aggressive and when to get guys shots, but when you’re playing point, you have to run the team. You have to run the offense; you have to get guys in position. You’ve got to talk. You’ve got to be engaged. You’ve got to encourage. You’re the head of the snake at all times. It was fun. I enjoyed it.”

“He’s been great at it,” Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said of Beal’s stint at point guard. “It’s hard sometimes to move a guy who has been the focal point of an offense and all of a sudden he’s got to be a playmaker…He’s shown great poise and patience.”

Beal’s ability to adapt to what the Wizards need has been one of his greatest assets over the course of his entire career. An elite spot-up shooter, a devastating all-around scorer and now a do-it-all offensive threat capable of facilitating an offense.

“We’ve all seen his growth over the last 10 years,” Unseld Jr. said of Beal. “He’s a leader. It’s not always easy. They’re going to throw multiple bodies at him, show him different looks and junk it up for him. But he’s able to steady us…As a playmaker, we’ve seen it time and time again. He’s a willing playmaker. When that ball starts moving, everyone benefits from it. He doesn’t force the issue. He doesn’t chase shots.”

This season, Beal is one of just five guards in the NBA to tally 25 points, five rebounds and five assists at least 10 times. Beal’s balance will be vital for the Wizards as they face a crucial stretch of Eastern Conference opponents throughout the month of January – and provide the guard an opportunity to differentiate himself from his peers throughout the conference.