It's looking more and more like the Wizards will be pressed into a decision between giving a max contract to Bradley Beal, or letting him walk away for nothing while he signs a max deal somewhere else. In light of that dilemma, some have suggested a third path: Orchestrating a sign-and-trade for Bradley Beal.
It makes sense, in some regards. A sign-and-trade would make the risk of giving Beal a max contract someone else's problem, and it would give the Wizards a way to retain some value, rather than let a talented player they took with a #3 pick walk away with nothing to show after four years.
Unfortunately, once you dig into the logistics of how a Bradley Beal sign-and-trade would work, it's hard to figure out a way this could happen. Here's a quick breakdown of what makes a sign-and-trade so challenging in this situation:
Most teams can sign Beal with their cap space
There's no point in orchestrating a sign-and-trade deal where you have to give up assets to sign someone when you can just use your cap space to make a deal work. Unlike most offseasons of the past, most teams in the NBA will have enough cap space to sign Beal to a max deal, if they so chose.
The teams who don't have cap space (teams like the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Clippers) probably won't be interested in a sign-and-trade because they either already have established options at Beal's position, or would have to give up key pieces of their core to make the salaries match in a trade.
There's no financial incentive for Beal to agree to a sign-and-trade
Thanks to changes in the CBA that took place in 2011, players can no longer use sign-and-trade deals to get all the perks of staying with their old team (getting a five-year contract, higher year-over-year salary increases, etc.). Beal would get the same money if he agreed to a max offer sheet from another team or if he agreed to a sign-and-trade.
(NOTE: If Beal officially signs an offer sheet with another team, the Wizards can't then work out a sign-and-trade with the team that offered him a deal or anyone else. Once the offer sheet has been signed, the Wizards' only options are to agree to match the offer or let him sign with the other team.)
Beal's max salary would make him difficult to trade
Thanks to the salary cap spike, a max deal would make Beal one of the highest paid players in the league, at least for next season. So if the Wizards wanted to trade him for someone like DeMarcus Cousins or Jimmy Butler, for example, they'd be asking those teams to give up stars who have produced more in their young careers and are on cheaper deals than Beal. If they had to make salaries match, Sacramento or Chicago would have to throw in extra assets just to match Beal's salary.
On the flip side, if a team is under the cap and wanted to make an unbalanced trade where they absorb Beal into their cap space, then it gets hard for the Wizards to recoup value in a deal, especially considering they already have plenty of cap room as it stands.
There's a reason why sign-and-trade deals have happened less often in recent years. Thanks to changes in the CBA, and the way teams manage their cap space, teams don't need unconventional methods to sign free agents like they did in years past. Perhaps some team out there has a grand scheme where they think they can recruit Beal and offer a package enticing enough to make the Wizards agree to a deal, but neither Beal or the Wizards should approach negotiations thinking it's a likely outcome.