Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard has been on the job for a little over a year now in Washington, and he needs to make his mark on the franchise yet again, just after rewarding star shooting guard Bradley Beal.
The Wiz need to work their witchcraft and get their team's best player some help or get Beal out altogether because the team in the nation’s capital is regressing faster than the president’s approval rating.
Sheppard and the Wizards doubled down on their commitment to Beal in October when they rewarded him with a two-year extension worth nearly $72 million. Beal had two years left on his existing deal, so the new contract doesn’t go into effect until the 2021-22 season.
Beal — arguably the most attractive asset on the trade market — is now a top-15 player in the league, yet stuck on a team that’s rebuilding. The Wizards have been so bad of late, the two-time All-Star was snubbed and lost the opportunity for a third trip to the exhibition game reserved only for the elite, even though NBA players voted him as the second guard on the East ballot this year.
The summer of 2022 is shaping to serve Beal splendidly. It will be his tenth year in the league, and if he opts out, he could instead ink a new pact worth north of $250 million over five seasons. Plus, he just turned 27.
Beal will not participate in the NBA’s 2019-20 season restart in Orlando due to a right rotator cuff injury. Before being sidelined by the injury, Beal was having another remarkable season, averaging 30.5 points per game, good for second in the league. He was also averaging career highs of 6.1 assists per game and netting three 3s a game.
Wall will be 30 the next time he can suit for a game and is coming off a ruptured Achilles' tendon that sidelined him the entire year. The last two seasons weren't any better for the former No. 1 pick, as he played just 32 and 41 games in each prior campaign.
Although Wall’s absence has further compounded the Wizards’ ability to compete, it’s also coincided with Beal blooming beautifully.
The Wizards missed the playoffs last year after making it four out of the previous five years. It’s not looking any better for the franchise this year, as they sit with a 24-40 record in ninth place and 5.5 games out from the last playoff spot as they compete in the NBA bubble.
There are several suitors in the league that would make sense to swap pieces for Beal. Among them are the Pelicans, Clippers, Sixers, Heat, Nuggets, Mavericks or Thunder. All of them would be willing to take on Beal’s salary in order to win now and tease him to stay later.
The league-worst Warriors are in line for the No. 1 pick and would immediately flip their fortunes by shipping the draft selection, and a player like Andrew Wiggins for a bona fide star to join the recovering Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
The Celtics have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft and can package a reputable player like Gordon Hayward along for a promising-looking return. It might take a guy like Jaylen Brown to complete the deal, which might scare the Celtics away.
Another Eastern Conference team could be Beal’s biggest suitor.
"It's not the first time I've heard this kind of talk," Beal told ESPN in May when a report surfaced that the Nets were trying to acquire him. "It's interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I've been doing good things and guys want to play with me … I've put down roots in D.C. I've dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.
"But I'd be naive to say that I don't think about it when these stories come up … My biggest thing right now is that I want to play with John [Wall] again. I want to see him get back to that level where I know he can be, especially since my game has grown so much [while he's been out]. What can we accomplish together? I'm so happy he's healthy, working his tail off."
Loyalty aside, Beal would be best served not to hitch his wagon to Wall.
NBA execs aren't expecting the Wizards star to be available come July. The sentiment is no different from last year, when the Wizards "rejected all trade overtures" for Beal.
The Wizards need to magically pull off a similar scenario to the Pelicans or Thunder by shipping their star to a contender for a bevy of player and picks before he jettisons the team altogether. A desperate trade-deadline haul next year would not benefit the Wizards in any way.
The Wizards need to make a move quick, especially with the shortened offseason that’s looming, because Beal’s value will never be better than what it is now.
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