Keeping John Wall and Bradley Beal sounds crazy to many. Many fans clamored at the idea of Bradley Beal bringing back a haul that would ultimately lead to a full rebuild of the Wizards roster, but the Wizards decided against that and then doubled down and offered Beal a 3-year extension.
As crazy as it may seem, the idea of keeping John Wall and Bradley Beal isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It will take a front office with a strong vision and precise way of executing that vision.
Any idea of rebuilding the around Wall and Beal has to have two approaches:
Approach #1: Get a No. 1 superstar
The most important point that has to be acknowledged about this approach: If your roster is not balanced, neither of Wall and Beal can be the best player on a contending team. That point has been proven when the Wizards have made them the two main building blocks of the team for years. The path forward with this in mind, means you need a player that can become your main star. Drafting a player of that caliber may be the less costly option.
Obviously that has either happened (Rui Hachimura? Yes I know that is not likely) or will need to happen in the next couple of years while the team is still rebuilding. Yes that is a lot to ask and that is perhaps why this is the least realistic approach.
Players like John Wall and Bradley Beal don’t grow on trees. There are a lot of things that have to go right to get a player that can surpass their talent. But if somehow the team is able to do so, then a healthy John Wall and Bradley Beal as the second and third option on a team sounds a lot different than them being depended upon to carry a mediocre roster.
Drafting a player of that caliber would be the best case scenario because it would mean they likely would not have to give up as many assets to get that player. It would also mean that they will be able to keep that player on a manageable contract for four to seven years which would allow them to add quality players around that player as well as Wall and Beal without having to worry about paying a third superstar a max contract for the foreseeable future.
This is certainly a long shot, but the Spurs had this approach when they traded for Kawhi Leonard on Draft Day 2011. This extended their aging core’s window and they also gave themselves the financial flexibility during the window. The Wizards would need to have a similar approach. Of course they don’t have the success that the Spurs’ core had, but they could create a plan to be executed in the same way.
The other way the Wizards can obtain a superstar player is by building assets in an effort to trade for a superstar player. When I think about this approach, perhaps the most recent example of this is the Lakers trading for Anthony Davis. No I am not suggesting that a player of his caliber will be available, but I am suggesting that the Lakers were in a position to use their assets to make such a move.
For years the Lakers made decent (not necessarily great) picks by drafting players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, which allowed them to build a package to get Davis. The Wizards, for so long, can’t even begin to get at the table with such a deal because of lack of assets, so with better roster management, perhaps they can build up assets enough to perhaps some day be ready for such a trade.
This approach would likely mean at least a few mediocre years of much of the same core, but the payoff would be far greater than what we have seen in the Wall-Beal era thus far.
Approach #2: Make the sum greater than the parts
You may be better off taking the 2011 Dallas Mavericks and mid 2000s Detroit Pistons approach to building, by being the sum of parts, as oppose to looking for that 3rd superstar. This is perhaps the most realistic approach building around Wall and Beal.
The reality is, the Wizards have not been good at attracting big name free agents. Whether it is Kevin Durant not even giving them an interview, or Al Horford picking the Celtics in a “wild finish”, the Wizards have struck out on a chance to add that third star next to Wall and Beal. So the idea of them building a more balanced team sounds appealing.
In order to do this though, they need to hit on their draft picks and make shrewd, prudent free agent signings. The key with this is recognizing that you will have a hefty bill paying Wall and Beal, with little cap space left, so maximizing the rest of the cap space goes a long way.
Tommy Shepherd has taken some steps towards this by adding draft picks and looking for undrafted free agent talent. Now he will have to find a way to get some value in return for expiring contracts like Ian Mahinmi’s and formulate a plan once the space is available.
With Wall hopefully being healthy and hopefully at worst being an above average point guard along with Beal, you have two players who are good building blocks. With Beal, the Wizards have a player who is starting to enter his prime and has a number of all-star years ahead of him. These are players that are capable of being great contributors for years to come.
The issue these past few years has been less about them, and more about the rest of the roster. Now that the front office has been completely revamped, this is an opportunity to show that they can move past mistakes and build a better roster.
If the Wizards decide to keep Wall and Beal, they are not settling for mediocrity and not throwing away potential. That said, they are putting pressure on themselves to show that they can erase the mistakes that were made earlier and build a better team with the same core.