Editor’s Note: Please welcome Gabe Ibrahim to Bullets Forever! His work can be found on the Her Hoop Stats and Ball Through the Ages newsletters. He is also one of the hosts of the Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast. Please give him a warm welcome everyone!
As you likely know by now, Giannis Antetokounmpo signed a supermax extension worth $227.36 million over the next five years with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week. The extension ends the nearly constant speculation about Giannis’s future and dashed several teams’ hopes of landing him next summer. While the Wizards were not in pursuit of the Greek Freak, the extension will affect Washington in several ways.
Now that Giannis is staying, expect more Beal rumors
With Giannis seemingly happy and locked in with the Bucks, the NBA community will turn its attention to other top players that may change teams. For now, the main focal point is James Harden and the circus he is creating to leave the Houston Rockets. Once Harden gets his way (and make no mistake, he will), Bradley Beal will likely be the apple of every team’s and media member’s eye.
Rumors around Beal’s future in Washington are certainly nothing new. The media and fans were sure Beal would leave in the 2021 offseason before signing a two-year extension last year. The extension made people stop talking about Beal leaving for approximately two seconds. There have been hundreds of graphics with Beal in different uniforms, mainly from Miami Heat fans. Heck, Giannis himself wanted the Bucks to trade for Beal. In fairness to us wretched media members, Beal has been open about wanting to win and maintain flexibility to make sure that happens.
However, the rumblings around Beal will be much louder over the next two seasons than ever before. He’s the next white whale for Miami, Toronto or whichever other team sees themselves as one star away. Still, there’s no reason to panic for Wizards fans. Beal is under team control through next year, and general manager Tommy Sheppard isn’t trading him unless his hand is forced. Until Beal publicly asks for a trade like John Wall did or is a free agent, he will be playing in a Wizards uniform.
Is there more hope for Beal staying?
On the flip side, Giannis’s extension could provide hope that Beal will stay in Washington long-term. Much like Giannis with Milwaukee, Beal has said that he wants to finish his career in D.C. He doesn’t seem like the type of player that will request a trade, again similar to Giannis. On the organizational side of things, both the Wizards and Bucks have the wherewithal to wait out the situation.
All of those points should make Washington feel better. But, there are a few obvious and key differences between Antetokounmpo’s and Beal’s situations. The Bucks have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons and earned the top seed for two straight years. Giannis’s stellar play, combined with team success, has yielded two MVP trophies and four All-NBA team selections. Bradley Beal hasn’t made the playoffs since 2018 and was snub from All-NBA despite averaging 30 points a game.
Simply, the Wizards need to win and continue making moves, as Milwaukee did this summer, to keep Beal long-term. We’ll have to wait and see about the winning. For now, Sheppard is showing Beal that the organization is committed to winning. The John Wall trade and Dāvis Bertāns’s big contract were uncomfortable moves for Washington, but likely made them better. It’s probably not enough yet. The Wizards must improve internally (which they have), make moves to bring in more talent and likely go into the luxury tax to keep Beal happy.
Beal could have more value in a future potential trade
Hopefully, the Wizards start winning games and Beal gains the recognition he deserves. But if the Wizards can’t find a way to win or Beal wants out at some point, Antetokounmpo being off the market increases Beal’s trade value markedly.
Whichever team strikes out on Harden will still be thirsty for a star and assets to trade for Beal. The Wizards could kick start a rebuild around a haul of draft picks or a budding star received in a trade.
All in all, Giannis Antetokounmpo signing his extension is a good thing for the Washington Wizards. Yes, rumors about Bradley Beal’s future will fly around more now. But D.C. knows the path to keeping Beal and has shown that the organization is willing to do the hard work. And if it all goes terribly wrong, the Wizards can get great value in a trade.