Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal battling Stephen Curry for a prestigious distinction

Regardless of whether or not Russell Westbrook has enough sheer willpower to push the Washington Wizards into the play-in tournament, there was one thing Wizards fans could hang their hat on. This season hasn’t been spectacular, but there’s always been one saving grace that could salvage an otherwise defunct season. But now, as the end draws ever nearer, that given isn’t such a given after all.

Bradley Beal has been the NBA’s leading scorer all season. Even more than Westbrook’s constant triple-doubles, Beal’s sensational scoring has been a near certainty since opening night. However, after a truly incredible first half of the season, Beal has cooled off a bit since the All-Star break, opening up the door for Stephen Curry.

Bradley Beal is playing for more than a Washington Wizards play-in birth.

At the All-Star break, it looked like Beal was running away with the scoring crown. Beal played in 32 of the Wizards’ 34 games before the break and was averaging 32.9 points per game. But Beal has been slowed by a hip contusion and has been less prolific since returning from his first appearance as an All-Star starter.

Post-All-Star break, Beal has played in 13 of the Wizards’ 20 games and has averaged a “pedestrian” 26.3 points in that span. Meanwhile, Curry has picked things up since the showcase in Atlanta.

Before the All-Star break, Curry was putting up impressive numbers — 29.7 points per game. But lately, he has really put the Warriors on his back and elevated his scoring. Curry is averaging 33.5 points per game since the break.

Thanks to a recent string of otherworldly performances from the Golden State point guard, Curry is right on Beal’s heels for the scoring title. As of April 16, Curry is averaging 30.7 points per game, while Beal is averaging 31.0 points per game. They’re neck and neck, and neither of these guys are letting up anytime soon.

Curry’s brilliance has the Warriors in the thick of the play-in action out West. They’re currently in 9th, 0.5 games behind the 8th-place Memphis Grizzlies and 0.5 games above the 10th-place San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors will need Curry to continue his brilliance if they want to stay in the mix, especially with rookie center James Wiseman out for the remainder of the season.

Likewise, the Wizards will absolutely need Beal to fuel their final push for the play-in for it to be successful. Although Beal’s largest point totals have often ended in losses this season, there’s no denying the Wizards’ offense runs far better with Beal on the floor. This season, the Wizards’ offensive rating is 12.8 points per 100 possessions better with Beal on the floor vs. when he’s on the bench, per NBA.com.

The Wizards have 18 games left, two more than the Warriors do, so Beal has a leg up in the race for the scoring crown. If he does finish the season as the NBA’s leading scorer, it will be the first time any player has done so in franchise history.