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Wizards need breakout season from Bradley Beal to keep pace in East

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation asked every NBA blog to write about the player they feel is poised to have a breakout season this year. It wasn't hard to identify the best candidate for the Wizards. The roster is filled with veterans who are beyond the age where they can have a breakout season, John Wall already had his breakout last season, and while we expect big things from Otto Porter this year, his potential for a breakout year pales in comparison to the obvious choice here: Bradley Beal.

Everything is lining for this to be the year Beal takes the next step in his development. From the looks of things, it appears Beal probably won't sign an early extension with the Wizards this fall, which means he's entering a contract year with plenty of incentive to play his best. Based on his workouts this summer, he's priming for a bigger role in the offense next season, and as long as he shows he can handle the bigger role, it would be hard to say no to giving a max deal next summer.

The early results from how he handled a bigger load in last year's playoffs were encouraging, especially in the three games against Atlanta without John Wall. His usage rate jumped from 22.5 percent in the regular season to 26.7 percent in the playoffs and it led to some of the best performances of his career. He averaged 20 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per 36 minutes in the playoffs. The only other players to hit that mark during last year's playoffs? LeBron James, Blake Griffin, James Harden and Josh Smith.

Then again, we've seen this story with Beal before. He had an outstanding performance in the 2014 playoffs but then he regressed back to his regular season form. The Wizards managed to survive Beal's regular season malaise because John Wall made the leap and because Paul Pierce was still able to handle enough of the load to make you forget Beal didn't take a step forward until the playoffs last season.

Now that Pierce is a Clipper, someone needs to absorb Pierce's offensive responsibilities and based on the Wizards' summer moves, they're banking on Beal taking on those duties. Outside of Beal, everyone else on the roster needs John Wall to create their best scoring opportunities. Jared Dudley can't replace Paul Pierce's playmaking, Gary Neal will shoot the Wizards out of as many games as he shoots them into, and while Otto Porter and Alan Anderson bring some nice things to the table, neither one should be the second-best scoring option for a team in the NBA at present time.

If Beal can't handle a bigger load next season, whether it's because he regresses back to regular season form like he did last season or because he can't stay healthy enough to make an impact, it creates problems for the Wizards in the short and long term. First and foremost, they'll struggle to generate points if Wall is the only player out there creating offense. It puts a load on Wall he shouldn't have to handle alone, and makes the team too one-dimensional. And if Beal doesn't play like a guy who can be a legit second option this season, it forces the Wizards and potential free agents to reevaluate just how far a Wall-Beal tandem can go in the playoffs.

Even though the Wizards probably aren't going to give Beal the contract he wants this summer, they're banking a lot on him making the leap this season. If Beal doesn't develop into a dynamic second option for the Wizards next season, the Wizards won't have to worry about improving on last year's success. They'll be too busy worrying about taking a step in the wrong direction.