There's been plenty of debate among Wizards and NBA fans about whether or not the Wizards should give Bradley Beal a max deal this summer. But from the looks of things, it looks like the debate is already over inside the Wizards' front office, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:
The Wizards are expected to offer Beal a five-year deal for the maximum amount allowed under the salary cap as soon as the free agent negotiating period kicks off on July 1, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Based on the $92 million salary cap projection teams are working with, a max contract would pay Beal $23 million next season because he could earn up to 25 percent of the cap amount as a four-year veteran.
This really shouldn't come as a shock to Wizards fans. He still has a ways to go with his development, and his injury history is concerning, but the team can't afford to lose a player that young and talented for nothing this summer.
But why not wait for another team to set the market? Beal is a restricted free agent, so they could just wait for Beal to sign an offer sheet with another team and then match that offer. While that might seem like the financially prudent thing to do, there's also some financial incentive to ensure Beal doesn't shop around for a deal, as Castillo explains:
Retaining Beal, who earned $5.6 million last season, is the only way the Wizards can sign two max-contract players this summer. Washington decided to not give Beal a max extension last summer because they wanted to suppress his cap hold, the term for the amount a player’s salary counts toward his team’s cap. Beal’s cap hold will be around $14.2 million on July 1, affording the Wizards room to acquire another max player through free agency or trade.
The plan is to strike an accord with Beal immediately, but to wait to officially sign him until all the other pieces fall in place because they own his Bird Rights, a salary cap exception that allows teams to exceed the cap in order to re-sign their own players. If they sign him before signing other players, they’ll be limited by the hard cap. Sequence is important in efficiently utilizing the cap room they meticulously created for a shot at Kevin Durant or other available players in an effort to ascend into the league’s elite.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Wizards have a realistic shot at Durant or any other max-level free agent, but either way, making sure Beal is off the market is the best way to take advantage of all the cap space they have this summer.
In some senses, making the decision to max Beal well ahead of the start of free agency seems like another case of the of the Wizards' unnecessarily outbidding themselves, and time may go to show that Beal wasn't worth the hefty contract they'll give him this summer.
At the same time, the Wizards' risk comes with a high upside if Beal can continue to improve and stay healthy, and it's hard to imagine a way the Wizards would be able to replace his production and add to the team's core without him or the extra cap space he provides this summer.