This summer, the NBA is in chaos. The Golden State dynasty has fallen and teams everywhere are chomping at the bit. There’s been more star realignment than ever before, causing massive shifts in the NBA’s fragile power balance. Seeing as the Washington Wizards are nowhere near the contending side of said equation, it makes sense that teams want to poach a player like Bradley Beal.
I get it. He’s a two-time All-Star (who should’ve made All-NBA this year) on a beautiful contract (two years and $55.75m) who is just entering his prime. On top of that, he has the ability to be a primary scoring option due to his efficient play style and mesmerizing jump shot, but can also easily play second fiddle. It’s also worth mentioning that the Panda isn’t a slouch on defense either. In short, the sweet-shooting guard is a legitimate franchise cornerstone in the modern NBA.
Which is why, unless he actively wants out, Bradley Beal isn’t going anywhere. Why would we move him? I understand why other teams would want him. He’s dope. The team around him? Not so much.
In case you weren’t paying attention here’s what happened last year: after a blistering 2-9 start, marquee summer signing Dwight Howard went down for the year. Young asset Kelly Oubre was moved to reacquire old veteran Trevor Ariza to steady the ship and help fortify contention. Neither goal was achieved. The franchise’s other cornerstone, John Wall, ruptured his Achilles by slipping in the shower in a likely career-altering injury. Otto Porter and the dreams of a homegrown Washington ‘Big Three’ were shipped off to Chicago for cap relief. Other than that, a general malaise seemed to suck the life and fan interest from the organization as we slowly remembered Ian Mahinmi is owed another $16 million.
Mercifully, the architect of this hellscape, Ernie Grunfeld, was finally relieved of his duties in early April. Since then, interim Tommy Sheppard has begun the process of undoing years of incompetence. It’s led to steady progress, including the extension of last year’s breakout player Thomas Bryant, the additions of rookies Rui Hachimiura, Admiral Schofield, and Justin Robinson, the trade for Laker cap casualties Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemarrio Jones and a burgeoning stockpile of second-round picks. Hell, we even signed Isaiah Thomas to be our tank commander. It’s not flashy, but I think most Wizards fans would agree we’ll take it.
That’s not the narrative people around the league want though. We’re still the incompetent, bumbling Wizards who overpay for role players in free agency and make, at best, lateral moves in the trade market. After over a decade and a half of Ernie’s confounding ways, that’s become our reputation. Throw in the fact that Wall’s 4-year, $171m deal is (unfortunately) essentially immovable in addition to limited cap space and draft capital, and it’s true that Washington’s situation is far from ideal. Because of these limiting factors, there’s a tangible argument that can be made to trade Beal.
The problem is, why now and to who? Beal would pretty obviously be the perfect addition to most teams in the league. While no longer applicable, Oklahoma City was an excellent example. Thunder fans were clamoring all over social media for Beal to be added to the Russell Westbrook and Paul George core. In theory, Beal’s game would’ve complimented the other two stars as the organization looked to escape playoff purgatory.
That said, they had nothing of interest to offer. A trade would’ve likely involved a combination of Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and a couple of late first round picks. How does that help us actually start a rebuild? The idea was dumb then, and it’s almost amusing to see how cards have fallen in recent weeks. While Westbrook and George are obviously now gone, Oklahoma City’s previous attraction to Beal serves as a good indication of how he can be the player to legitimately push a team over the edge.
The noise has been loud elsewhere surrounding Beal’s future. Recently, Miami has been rumored to be trying to pair him with newly signed Jimmy Butler. That scenario is honestly laughable. Not only are Miami a rival, but their asset cupboard couldn’t be drier. A quick glance and the only mildly attractive piece is Bam Adebayo. You don’t trade your best player for a package centered on Bam Adebayo. Heat fans may try to convince you that player like Derrick Jones Jr. is the future and a fair return, but Beal is a bonafide bluechip asset and the constant lowballs are a slap in the face. What’s more is to make salaries match, Washington would have to take on one of the Heat’s bad contracts like Kelly Olynyk or Goran Dragic. On top of all that, due to the Stepien Rule, Miami can’t trade a first-round pick until 2025. Sorry Pat (or more likely delusional Heat fans), it’s not happening.
Plenty of other teams have been linked to Beal either due to media hype or their fans’ own pipe dreams. Before the draft, CBS wanted both Boston and New Orleans to offer “hauls” for our only healthy star. In the scenario, New Orleans would’ve offered Brandon Ingram, E’Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill’s contract, and the No. 4 pick. Not as terrible as previous options, but not exactly a franchise kickstarter either.
The Boston deal (Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, No. 22 pick and the Memphis 2020 first) is even less enticing for two reasons. Number one, fuck the Celtics. Number two, their only bluechip asset is that Memphis pick, which is just a lottery ticket. Even if they were to get the number one pick, they could get someone potentially just a good as, you guessed it, Bradley Beal.
If there had been a package good enough at the draft, we’d know because he wouldn’t be on the team anymore.
The only semi-intriguing option this offseason was Beal to the Lakers as their Anthony Davis contingency plan. It’d essentially have been a similar deal to what wound up being the Davis trade.
In fact, it’s interesting to look at the Davis situation when looking at Beal’s. Davis is definitely the better player, but he also unequivocally wanted out of New Orleans. He also only had one year left whereas Beal has two. Davis forced New Orleans’ hand, but also gave them enough time to maximize his value. It’s worth noting that the Lakers were also desperate in their pursuit of him. Combine these factors and you get a franchise rebooting trade package. The Wizards would be selling very low at the moment, especially with the aftermath of not only the Davis trade, but the George trade as well.
Beal also hasn’t said anything about wanting to leave yet. In fact, the Wizards are actively trying to extend him, not trade him. If you’re Beal, I understand waiting to see how the organization progresses post-Ernie, but he knows he’s loved here. Likewise, owner Ted Leonsis has made public effort to pay more attention to both him and Wall moving forward. Whether or not that convinces Beal that a proper culture change is happening is yet to be decided, but he hasn’t said a negative thing yet about his lovably doomed squad this summer.
Next year will probably be a rough one, but that doesn’t mean the outlook is overly bleak. A poor performance next year should net a high draft pick, adding to the young nucleus that is quietly assembling. Mahinmi’s albatross will come off the books as well, alleviating some cap concerns. If a motivated Wall can come back and adapt his game to play though Beal and counteract any loss in athleticism, the Wiz could make some noise in the East as early as 2020. In 2021, there’s a chance the Wizards could have a space for another max player. That’s not that far away. If Beal inks an extension – that future looks even better. The argument to build around Beal, I believe, is more compelling than initiating a total teardown.
This still hasn’t stopped fans from Detroit, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Denver, among many others, from spamming Wizards Twitter and Reddit, heralding rip-off trade ideas as their team doing lowly Washington an act of community service. Deals centered around the likes of Gary Harris or Reggie Jackson don’t cut it and are frankly infuriating. They signal a lack of respect for both Beal and the Wizards organization, and only one of those sentiments has merit. Not many teams have the adequate means to trade for a player of Beal’s caliber and other fans ought to recognize such.
Once again, Beal is a fantastic player, easily top-20. Last season he put up 25.6 points, 5.5 assists, and 5 rebounds every night. And I really mean every night. Beal not only started all 82 games but led the entire NBA in minutes (3028) and minutes per game (36.9). He shot 47.5% from the field on an average of only 19.6 attempts while being the team’s best offensive option. That production at an Ironman rate is pretty hard to replace.
Eventually, he may well want out. He may decide its time to maximize his value and contend in a league that has already proven ever changing. If this day of reckoning were to come, it’d be a real shame, even if one can understand the reasons why Beal might want to leave. There’d be nothing we as fans or the organization can do at the point.
Still, especially with Wall out, he’s the heart and soul of our franchise. This will remain true as long as he wants it to. That type of player doesn’t come cheap, especially when there’s no rush for the team to sell its best part. We may be staring straight into the abyss of another rebuild, but unless Beal wants out or another team really ponies up, to the rest of the league, politely, fuck off.