Washington Wizards superstar Bradley Beal is the hottest target for NBA championship contenders looking to upgrade their rosters.
Beal, 26, signed a 5-year, $127 million contract with the Wizards back in 2016. At the time, Washington looked like a young team on the rise that would have the opportunity to compete for the next decade behind the star power of Beal and John Wall.
Since then, things have not gone particularly well for that franchise.
Wall, 28, signed a massive 4-year deal that was set to pay him $171 million over four years – running through 2022-23. That deal ensures him payouts of $38 million, $41 million, $44 million and $47 million through age 32.
Unfortunately for all involved, shortly after signing that major contract, the somewhat injury prone Wall went full Greg Oden. In the last two years, he has played 41 and 32 games, respectively, leaving the burden of carrying that entire Wizards team to Beal.
Beal did the best he could, but despite his best efforts, he just could not lift Washington back to the heights they were at in prior years. They finished the 2018-19 season with a record of 32-50 – good for 11th place in the awful Eastern Conference.
Between Wall’s recent health history and the fact that Washington has lost a decent amount of supporting talent over the past few years, popular wisdom says that better days are not ahead. And if they are not vying for an Eastern Conference championship, then it only stands to reason that Wizards brass would look to unload some expensive assets.
For now, Wall’s contract is unmovable. He is too much of an injury risk and way too pricey to get anything of value in return.
Beal, however, is a different story.
At just 26 years of age and having played a full 82 games in each of the last two years, Beal is exactly the type of player championship contenders can bring in to serve as their number two option behind a legitimate superstar.
Beal has averaged at least 23 points per game in each of his last three seasons – culminating with a career high 25.6 points per game in 2018-19. He did his damage last year while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and dishing out a career high 5.5 assists.
Although his three point percentage has been steadily declining over the last few years, he is still a career 38.4 percent shooter from behind the arc.
Needless to say, acquiring Beal would be an upgrade for many squads. Which brings us to the obvious question: who are the legitimate contenders for his services?
The Boston Celtics always see their names brought up whenever a highly-prized player becomes available, but there is a reason for that – they tend to have assets that people want. Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report recently proposed an interesting little deal where the Wizards send Beal and Ish Smith to the Celtics in exchange for Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and future draft picks. The deal would give Washington a big name to build around in Hayward, and would give Boston a talent that would work extremely well with Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker.
If that deal does not work, the Celtics could also try to package something around Jaylen Brown and their two picks from the Memphis Grizzlies, as noted by Bill Simmons and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
The Denver Nuggets are another intriguing option for Beal’s services. The Nuggets had a fantastic year in 2018-19, and they responded by paying point guard Jamal Murray like a player who could one day serve as a legitimate No. 2 option behind Nikola Jokic on a championship contender. Is he actually that? It is up for debate. Although Murray could eventually grow into a player worthy of the $170 million that has been bestowed upon him, he is not that player yet.
Beal, on the flip side, would make a great addition to Denver’s roster and would work extremely well with Jokic. As noted by Joel Rush of Forbes, a deal where the Nuggets offer up two future first round picks, Gary Harris and then someone like Malik Beasley and/or Michael Porter could make a lot of sense for all involved.
The Miami Heat are another team in the running for Beal’s services. Jordan Brenner of The Athletic proposed a very interesting deal that would involve a three-team transaction between the Dallas Mavericks, Wizards and Heat. In that trade, the Heat would get Wall and Beal from the Wizards and Justin Jackson from the Mavericks; the Mavs would get Goran Dragic and Derrick Jones Jr. from the Heat and Isaac Bonga from the Wizards; the Wizards would get James Johnson, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters from the Heat and Courtney Lee from the Mavericks.
Finally, much like the Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers are another team that is always in contention when a star player becomes available. The problem with Los Angeles as a viable destination for Beal in a trade is that the team gave away most of their young trade bait to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Anthony Davis. Now, all they can really offer for Beal is Kyle Kuzma and a collection of scraps. Will that be enough to entice Washington to move arguably their best player?
Ultimately, it remains to be seen how desperate the Wizards will be to move Beal before he leaves for nothing – but there is a very good chance they decide to pull the trigger before the end of the 2019-20 season.