Wednesday, May 25 2022
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Bradley Beal has been, along with Damian Lillard, the most loyal superstar in the NBA. He has signed multiple contracts to remain with a non-contending Washington Wizards team whose prospects don’t appear likely to improve anytime soon. Those Wizards are 13-24 since their 10-3 start, and with Beal set to hit free agency this offseason, his future appears uncertain for the first time in years. 

All reports to this point had indicated that Beal planned to sign a five-year, $241 million contract with the Wizards this offseason, and that the Wizards were not entertaining trade offers for their All-Star guard. But according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge and Josh Robbins, while Beal’s preference remains winning in Washington, he is now conflicted about his future with the Wizards. Washington is currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, set to miss a play-in round that Beal recently said would be a “step back” for the Wizards. 

The Wizards, to this point, are not believed to be interested in trading Beal. They would instead prefer to build around him, but they are at a first-round pick deficit, thanks to the Russell Westbrook-for-John Wall trade, and bad contracts given to Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie limit their flexibility in future moves. While Beal has not asked for a trade, Aldridge and Robbins report that he would not reject the notion out of hand.

Further complicating matters is the idea that Beal might simply sign with Washington and ask for a trade down the line. This is becoming increasingly popular among NBA stars as a way of securing the most money possible without subjecting themselves to losing situations. Ben Simmons is attempting this path as we speak. According to Aldridge and Robbins, Philadelphia would be interested in a Simmons-for-Beal swap, but not with another major piece like Matisse Thybulle or Tyrese Maxey involved.

If Beal does decide in the offseason that he wants to leave, the major obstacle he’ll encounter is how little cap space there is around the league. Only the Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons are currently positioned for significant cap space. None of those teams are much more appealing than the Wizards. Beal could seek a sign-and-trade, but he’d not only have to leave roughly $60 million on the table to get one, but he’d also require Washington’s cooperation in that process. If the Wizards aren’t comfortable with what other teams offer, they could simply decide not to participate. If Beal were then unwilling to sign with another cap space team, Washington’s Bird rights would be his only path to a max contract.

Beal has done everything in his power to help the Wizards build a sustainable contender. They have been unable to do so. Thus far, he hasn’t indicated that he’s given up on that prospect, but with each passing loss, the idea becomes less and less likely. Eventually, he’s going to have to reckon with the fact that winning probably means playing somewhere else. 



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