It's been a slow summer for players from the 2012 rookie class looking to get extensions on their rookie deals. Yes, Anthony Davis got a max deal seconds after free agency began, and Damian Lillard got a max extension shortly after, but since then it's been fairly quiet, until this week.
Jonas Valanciunas got the ball rolling again on extensions when he signed a four-year, $64 million deal to stay in Toronto, and then the Hornets signed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to a four-year, $52 million deal earlier this week.
With those deals done, you may be wondering why Bradley Beal, the third overall pick from the 2012 Draft hasn't signed a deal yet. According to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, it's appears Beal and the Wizards don't see eye-to-eye on Beal's worth at the moment:
Bradley Beal has made it clear. He thinks he’s a max player, and that’s what he wants. I’ve talked to people on both sides all offseason about this. It seems to be Bradley Beal’s decision. The Wizards are willing to make him an offer an extension. But they’re not going to offer him the maximum extension right now simply because they don’t have to.
Usually in these situations, one side is making a mistake by not agreeing to a deal. Either a team is making the mistake of thinking their young player won't make a drastic improvement in their first contract year that winds up costing them money, or the player is grossly overvaluing themselves. This is the rare case where both sides are making the right decision to wait for restricted free agency.
Why Beal should not agree to an early extension
Bradley Beal is less of a surefire candidate for a max extension than either Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard, for understandable reasons. He has dealt with more than his fair share of injuries in his first three seasons in the NBA. Though he doesn't have one specific injury that gives you pause, the collective bumps and scrapes he picks up over the course of a season cut into his value. And even when he's been healthy, he hasn't played like a max player for most of his time in the NBA. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has been under the league average every season.
But at the same time, players don't sign rookie extensions based on what they've earned up to that point. They're paid based on what the market believes that player will be worth over the course of their next contract. Even if there are reasons to be worried about maxing Beal out, there will be more than one team willing to make the plunge if Beal hits the market next summer. There aren't many opportunities to sign a 23 year old who is already a top-10 player at his position with several playoff series under his belt.
If he's not worth a max deal for the Wizards, he'll be worth a max deal for someone next summer, barring the extremely rare chance he suffers a devastating injury this season. And even if he gets injured, he could still get a max from someone. Let's not forget a Wes Matthews got $70 from Dallas this summer even though he tore his Achilles in March and turns 29 before the start of the season. There will be plenty of teams willing to bet big money to bet Bradley Beal will be healthy in future, Beal doesn't need to hedge on himself by settling for less than the max right now.
Why it makes no sense for the Wizards
There isn't much impetus for the Wizards to get a deal done now. If they can't agree to an extension with Beal before this fall's deadline, they will have the right to match any offer Beal signs next summer. It could create some hurt feelings between now and next summer, but a max contract has a way of making everyone happy again.
But why not just get the max deal out of the way now to avoid the bickering? Well here's the thing: Even if they think Beal is a max player, it wouldn't make sense to sign him to a max deal now. Why? It all goes back to Kevin Durant.
If they sign Beal to an extension now, his $20+ million salary would count against the team's cap when they make their pitch to Durant. If they wait until next summer to make a deal, they would only have to carry Beal's $14.2 million cap hold to retain the right to match any offer he receives in free agency. That gives them an extra $6 million of cap space to make sure they have enough to give Durant a max offer. Then, once they know what Durant will do, they can address Beal. Even if KD joins the Wizards, Washington can then use their rights with Beal to give him all the money he wants, even if it puts them over the cap.
Simply put, signing Beal to an early deal to keep him happy is not worth the cap space that could possibly keep the Wizards from offering a Durant a max contract next summer. And since Beal doesn't appear to be willing to settle for less than the max, the Wizards should just allow him to go prove that he's worth the money they'll likely have to pay him anyway.