The longest days of the NBA offseason and gone The draft, the primary free agency season, and summer league have wrapped up and we’re at the pick-up game footage portion of the off-season; in other words, the dog days are here!
There is one story that has been a constant since the off-season began; what the Wizards should do with Bradley Beal. Everyone who’s anyone (and everyone who isn’t) seems to have an opinion on the matter – that Washington must trade Brad and sooner rather than later.
Before the draft, the trade machines were hard at work finding a home for him that would land Washington a lottery pick as part of a pre-draft package. After the draft, the calendar hit free agency. When the Paul George trade to the Los Angeles Clippers broke, the immediate conversation turned to should the Wizards have pursued a similar deal for Brad? Lastly after the contract extension offer was made last week with no extension in place yet, again, the conversation turned to whether it’s time to move on.
I’m not going to pretend I have the definitive answer. And if someone tells you they do I’d advise you ignore them.
The Wizards may very well have to trade him at some point over the next 12 months; that’s to-be-determined. What I can say is THERE IS NO RUSH.
The Wizards, after 16 years has moved on from the Ernie Grunfeld and have a new front office in place. Over the past month the organization has made major changes in front office structure and have brought in new talent, voices, and eyes from differing backgrounds.
The new front office needs time to work together and make a determination on what they have, and what they think the best course of action is to be a contender and that can’t happen in less than a month – especially in the collaborative type of setting they are striving for.
This would be problematic if Brad was in the final year of his contract (a la David Griffin, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans) but he’s not! Brad has two years left on the five-year extension he signed before the 2016-2017 season.
Based on precedent, a reasonable person would assume the earlier a player is traded in his contract, the more value he would have as the acquiring team would have more team control. That may still be the case but the landscape of the NBA is changing.
We’re no longer in an NBA where it’s LeBron, the Golden State Warriors and then everyone else. The Toronto Raptors renting Kawhi Leonard and winning the NBA title, along with Kevin Durant’s injury and subsequent departure to the Brooklyn Nets has changed things.
There are more teams than ever who are pushing their chips in to make a title run. Is a contender going to turn down the opportunity to acquire a player who can make the difference between a good and a great season in the current landscape because there’s only one year left on his deal next summer versus two? Color me skeptical.
There are other factors working in the Wizards’ favor. The 2020 free agency class is relatively weak. If teams feel they are on the cusp or a ring, the missing piece might not be available in free agency next summer.
The 2021 FA class on the other hand is loaded and teams not only have to position themselves to be players in that class, but also pitch their own pending free agents to re-sign. Would there be a better way to pitch you own free agent than showing a commitment to winning by trading for Brad Beal, who the acquiring team would also have Bird Rights for?
The opportunity to win a title can create desperation, similar to the situation with Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers which allowed the Thunder to acquire a record haul in terms of draft compensation.
Free agents who have signed this summer aren’t even eligible to be traded until December (i.e. Trevor Ariza last winter). Wouldn’t it be prudent for the Wizards to wait until every player in the league is available to them before making a deal?
Shouldn’t they also see if some of the Summer League teases like a Tyler Herro are for real or see what a Michael Porter Jr. looks like in his return to the court? Shouldn’t they also see how all the new parts fit on a team like New Orleans (a team rumored to have interest in Beal) and see who David Griffin might make available?
Most importantly, the Wizards have to find out what they have on their roster. The consensus is the Wizards will be a bad team and they might, but there’s a difference in the type of bad, a team can be.
The Atlanta Hawks won less games than Washington last year but people are bullish on their future because of how they grew over the course of the season and the youth on their roster. The Wizards on the other hand won more games, but were a veteran team with a bloated payroll that wasn’t always fun to watch.
The Wizards aren’t that veteran team anymore so if they can come close to or exceed last year’s win total, playing a a try hard/open style of basketball featuring Brad and a young core of Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura, and Troy Brown Jr. (with another potential lottery pick on deck next summer), could leave a much better impression than last year’s team did.
Maybe one of the young players makes a significant leap. Thomas Bryant for example averaged 20.5ppg, 12rpg, and shot 69% from the field in the 13 games where he played 30 minutes plus. If the Wizards get a few breakthrough performances from their younger talent, to add to their all-NBA caliber shooting guard, they may have something that is worth holding on to and building off of.
These are all ifs, and could lead nowhere but it all comes back to Brad’s current deal. Why not find out definitively what they have under the eyes or a new front office and development of a coaching staff which has undergone a mini-overhaul itself.
What is the downside? Health is one, but you can’t offload Brad preemptively coming off three seasons of 77, 82, and 82 games because of the fear of an injury. If the Wizards end up winning 25 games and the young core plateaus, by all means, trade Brad in February or next summer, but be sure.
We learned something in what otherwise was a wasted season. In the 48 games, Beal played a normal allotment of minutes after the injury to John Wall, he averaged 28ppg, 6.2apg, and 5.3rpg on a 59.2 true shooting percentage.
Going into his age 26 season on HIS team entering HIS Prime, he might be able to produce at that type of level or even better for a full season which can have two results; 1) help this team or 2) further enhance his trade value.
Just as important, for a team that had developed an aura of being “to cool for school”, he played hard every night and his teammates followed suit. Talent was an issue with the Wizards ‘18-‘19 campaign but effort, especially for the Beal lead iteration of the team that played the majority of the season was not. Is there a better example for the young players on this roster than to learn from and follow the lead of Brad?
Lastly, one of the many critiques of the Ernie Grunfeld era was his propensity to rush into player acquisitions. Once Al Horford committed to the Celtics, he quickly pivoted to Ian Mahinmi. He rushed to sign Eric Maynor early in free agency to be the backup point guard. He did not wait to see who would be available at No. 5 in the 2019 NBA draft, rather jumping at the opportunity to acquire Mike Miller and Randy Foye on the eve of the draft only to see Ricky Rubio slip on draft night.
Call me crazy but maybe they should follow Sheppard’s lead and pump the brakes before making a franchise altering decision.