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Roundtable: Bradley Beal didn’t get the supermax. Now what?

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Whitacre: Not gonna lie, I’m not surprised Beal missed the cut for All-NBA. While I think you can make a good argument he outplayed Kemba Walker, I think the strong early impression left a more lasting mark on voters than Beal’s late surge without Wall. It’s just the way the media voting works.

Now that the Wizards are clear of having to decide on maxing Beal this summer, where do you stand on what the Wizards should do next? Do you roll the dice that the next GM can turn things around quickly and sell Beal on a future in Washington, or should the team be proactive about making a move before he looks at greener pastures?

Osman Baig: I don’t think this puts the Wizards completely in the clear, but it gives the new general manager (if they ever name one) an opportunity to see what they have and don’t have over the next 12 months before having to make a decision one way or another on Brad’s future. They can still listen to offers this summer depending on how the market shakes out, but they are no longer under the gun to make a decision in the immediate future. If a team comes up with an offer they can’t refuse, they can now take it on their terms.

In the immediate future, Brad staying gives the team a certain level of credibility heading into next season. With him, there’s a floor this team should meet — a try-hard team that will compete nightly. That’s what we’ve seen over the last two years when the team has been led by Beal and that will be good for Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown, and whomever they select at #9 to have.

Nick Bilka: For me it doesn’t change all that much. The Wizards are unlikely to get much from about $60 million or so of their roster this year, so it’s will be very difficult for them to be anything better than this year’s team. So after a year that they don’t make the playoffs again, Beal will be an expiring contract and Wall will be trying to come back from one of the worst injuries you can get as a basketball player at the age of 30. It’s hard to imagine a way in which this works out well and Beal decides to resign in Washington, regardless of the nice things he might say about the city and franchise now. So why not just act now, both for the benefit of the organization and Bradley Beal as well?

Ben Becker: Nick is correct. Beal is never going to be a superstar (top 8 player) such that any future deal he’d sign would make him a bargain. There’s no reason -- other than sentiment -- not to trade him this summer for the best return possible.

Kevin Broom: I agree that this shouldn’t change any part of the Wizards’ plans. Beal was a top-eight guard this season (I also had Conley ahead of him for All-NBA), but that’s still a considerable distance from the elite performers that might be worth that kind of money. The Wizards should still be looking to trade him for a package of picks and good young players.

Albert Lee: Ultimately, I think that Beal has to be traded. Perhaps his omission from the All-NBA team can allow him to stay in Washington for another season, but the Wizards need to look for as much salary cap relief as possible.

Akbar Naqvi: I don’t think they should trade him, at least not until he demands it. Beal is very good, and while he may never be a superstar, I think he’s worth keeping around if you can keep him, especially given his age. I see very few situations in which the return for Beal would be worth it. I’ll always be against trading good young players just to get salary cap space or assets, both from a team-building standpoint (players like Beak are hard to find, you shouldn’t trade them with the idea that you can replace them in the future because chances are you can’t) and from an ethical standpoint (Bradley Beal is awesome and I want to root for him. The GM is paid to make that happen with the Wizards cap situation, not me).

Quinten Rosborough: I’m a bit confused as to why people think he has to be traded, at least right now anyway. From the outside looking in, he’s seems like a thoughtful dude and a natural leader who empowers those around him and most importantly, he seems sincere about wanting to be here. Given the institutional rot that’s plagued this organization for the last four decades, Beal’s personality and leadership style is pretty invaluable in setting the tone for what the organizational culture should look like moving forward.

I know they just got smoked by the Warriors but i think Damian Lillard is an interesting parallel. People have been saying that team should blow it up for at least five years now (and maybe they should have), but his work ethic has clearly rubbed off on the team, front office and the city.

If Beal gets unhappy, or a team like LA, Denver, or Boston makes a good offer then yeah, I’d drive him to the airport. But I don’t think the team needs to be shopping him. He’s still going to be the second-best shooting guard in the league in February, and probably still will be next summer too. Barring something crazy happening, the Wizards have plenty of time move him.

Lyndie Wood: I think the issue is that the Wizards are strapped for assets, and don’t really have a path to be competitive over the next couple of years, so it’s better to trade Beal now while his value is at an all time high and do a mini (or total) rebuild. As it stands it’s hard to see them being better than a 40ish win team for the rest of Beal’s contract. It’s true that his leadership is valuable, but it’s hard to chart a course forward over the next few years that leads to being more than a marginal playoff team.

I agree that there’s not a massive hurry, but I’d definitely be looking to move him by the trade deadline. I think his value drops after that due to contract length.

Ben Becker: Well said, Lyndie. I don’t think there’s reason to “dump” Beal, but realistically, it’s really hard to see this team becoming any good at all over the life of his contract.

I get that it’s emotionally tough. I love Brad. He was so kind to my kids at an appearance a few years ago. I’d miss rooting for him in a Wizards jersey.

But here’s the key point — there’s a big gap between his market value and his actual value. He put up great raw stats this year, but none of the advanced metrics indicate that he’s taken some huge leap as a player (for instance — he was more productive two seasons ago). If Beal ‘s production was even close to a guy like Lillard’s, the Wizards wouldn’t have been 32-50.

Market conditions are such that there should be some big offers for Beal. Some teams are going to swing and miss big time in free agency, and if Kevin Durant leaves Golden State, lots of teams are going to feel like the chance to contend is more “wide open” than in the past.

It only takes one partner, and I think one of Denver, the Lakers, the Clippers, The Kinicks, Toronto, Orlando, etc could put something compelling on the table.

Akbar Naqvi: I would understand wanting to trade Beal and would take a good offer but I don’t think that should be the first thing the new GM should jump to. Being strapped for cap room is one thing, trading your closest thing to a star who is entering his prime to get out of it is another. I’m just not convinced the Wizards would be that much better off either way. One path (trading Beal and tanking) gives them a higher variance of outcome. Either way, the next 4 years will be difficult and there’s no way of knowing whether the time that comes after it will be any better.

Ben Becker: What’s the downside of trading Beal? The Wizards will be bad? They’re likely to be mediocre either way.

What’s the upside of keeping him? That the Wizards will cobble together a roster that can make the playoffs as a 6-8 seed in the East? I’ve seen that movie enough times to prefer to watch something else.

The upside of trading him is that they get a big enough asset package to start a meaningful rebuild. The Wizards are bereft of assets and need to stock the cupboard.

What’s the downside of keeping him? Considerable. One, as I mentioned, he could just leave for nothing in free agency. But moreso, as we get closer to that there will be soooo much noise and distraction around his decision. How do you build a culture in that environment? And if word leaks to the media that Beal has asked for a trade (which has to be considered as a possibility) all hell breaks loose. Also, Beal’s value could take a hit. He could struggle next season for whatever reason or — perish the thought — get hurt.

It’s unlikely that the Wizards will ever be able to get more for him than they will this summer. If Ted is serious about building a team that can win anything meaningful, you’ve got to shop Beal. Obviously, you only pull the trigger on a big offer. But if for instance Denver puts Gary Harris, MPJ and Monte Morris on the table, I am pulling the trigger. Then you let Harris rack up big stats as an offensive centerpiece and move him in a year if things work out. The model is what the Clips did with Blake (and Tobias). Look where they are now.

Osman Baig: I don’t think there’s any right or wrong answer here. The team is strapped for assets and the path towards contention with Beal is difficult and would take time. It would require a GM who is creative, good, and lucky and like Akbar said, they pay the GM to make that happen. Gauging Brad’s commitment level is important — is he committed to seeing a retool or rebuild beyond John’s contract? Trading him guarantees nothing. Those assets may not turn into anything remotely close to what Beal offers as a player, a leader who can erase the stigma of dysfunction which follows this team, and be a model for the young core to follow.

There are so many layers to this and the new GM could reasonably decide a trade is still in their ultimate best interests after an evaluation of their team, cap outlook, etc...but the looming threat of a supermax decision is no longer a cloud hanging over the franchise’s immediate future.

The other factor in a decision to trade Beal is yes — his value is high now. That doesn’t mean very many teams out there can meet the asking price.

This tweet is from last January, and Beal did nothing to reduce the team’s asking price since then. It wouldn’t make sense for a rebuilding team to trade for Beal because they would be left with few assets surrounding him. You have other teams with cap space that will likely target free agents this summer so that they can add to their current core, rather than trade pieces of that core away. Despite his value, it’s not an easy trade to execute given what the asking price is likely to be.

Nick Bilka: The GM is paid to make that happen but they’re hiring a GM for the Wizards, not an actual Wizard. The constraints of the cap and lack of assets and talent can’t be waved away by saying the new GM has to figure that out and put us in contention without trading Beal. The constraints are such that even a great GM in a top-tier market would have low odds of turning this into much more than an eight seed in the next two years that Beal is here. By keeping Beal, I think you are taking a strategy with a low chance of success (I think it will be hard for them to even reach the 8 spot, they didn’t this year and their cap situation is worse next year) and the success of a 7 or 8 seed is kind of a low ceiling to have.

Osman Baig: Again, I don’t see where anyone has suggested a “go figure it out strategy” but the proverbial gun to the head that may have come along with him being supermax eligible is no longer there as an immediate threat. They have a little time now and I don’t see how allowing the new GM time to test isn’t prudent. Maybe Beal is committed, Byrant (age 21) and Brown (age 19) take leaps, and they hit on the 9th pick. A 35-40 win ascending team isn’t the worst thing in the world and is different than the plateaued-to-descending version of this team we’ve seen the last few years. Or maybe the GM determines those young players aren’t good enough and they have to tear it down and trade Brad. That’s fine but there’s an argument to be made that this shouldn’t be the first thing a new GM, coming in late to the game right before the draft should do.

Akbar Naqvi: The upside of a potential Beal trade is only there if you get a package that moves you to the goals you are talking about, and again, if we get an offer we can’t refuse then obviously we have to consider, same as with any player who’s not a super duper star. But stuff happens in the league, players get better, injuries happen, etc. etc. It’s all a crapshoot. The draft is a crapshoot with a higher variance. I don’t think getting a player of Beal’s talent is likely enough to warrant mandating trading him. I think you have a better chance getting somewhere in this league with a sure-thing star than without one, regardless of cap issues.

Also, we don’t know what will happen with the cap. Chances are the Wizards are in a bad situation either way, but it would make a huge difference if they were in cap hell rather than being in a cap inferno like they’re projected to be next year.

I also don’t buy the idea that Beal’s value will drop to where they have to actively look to deal him since it is high now. There is always a market for guys his caliber, even with expiring deals. It only takes one team confident enough in their ability to keep him.

Lyndie Wood: Akbar, I see what you are saying with respect to the draft being a crapshoot, but I’d counter by saying it’s an *inexpensive* crapshoot.

Teams with aging stars are teams with expensive stars. Even though it will take multiple high first round picks to hit on a franchise-level talent, if they hit on it they have an affordable top-tier player, which gives them room to pay for complimentary talent.

I would argue that a player like Beal - an All-Star, but not top 10ish overall player, on a max contract - makes sense for a team that sees their championship window as right now and will take on some financial pain to contend (someone mentioned Denver earlier, I think they would be a great spot for Beal). Think Kevin Love on the LeBron-lead Cavaliers. I don’t see him making sense on the Wizards, whose other All Star has an injury that will keep him off the court for a year and likely another year to return to form.

Kevin Broom: The Wizards are not in a “must trade” situation with Beal. Realistically, they will not be competitive until they’re finished paying Wall’s contract unless they get super lucky in multiple ways over the next two-to-three years. The time frame for them to be good again is most likely four years. At which point, Beal would be entering his 30s. Maybe he’d still be capable of being the second or third guy on a good team for a few more years at that point, but more likely he’ll be entering the “expensive decline” portion of his career. On the other hand, he’s the team’s most valuable asset, and by trading him they could get picks and young players who might be part of a long-term plan.

Those assets will be important because they’ve been run by Ernie Grunfeld, who was a poor strategic thinker and who frequently squandered player acquisition assets, and spent future assets to fix mistakes and/or pursue short-term goals. Part of that is on Leonsis, of course (I wrote about that when Grunfeld was fired) because of crappy goal-setting. But, whatever the reason they missed on a lot and then spent more to “contend for the playoffs.” So, they should be setting some meaningful and realistic goals and then building toward them. Keeping Beal lengthens the time it’s going to take them to be actual contenders and increases the likelihood they remain in that cycle of spending future assets to try to make the playoffs.

This isn’t a dump, though. The Tobias Harris haul is the floor. They should get back a couple firsts and a good young player or two. If they can’t get that around the draft, there’s no harm in waiting until the trade deadline or next summer. But, trading him is their best move.

Jake Whitacre: A trade would be preferable, but letting Beal walk isn’t the doomsday scenario some are making it out to be. If he leaves, they’ll have $28.5 million they can use to absorb bad contracts in exchange for future assets as well. Depending on the market, they might be able to get more value taking that route than trying to flip him early.