We are on to part two of our round-table on Bradley Beal! To quickly recap, the noise around Beal and his commitment to the Wizards has picked up. Per David Aldridge and Joshua Robbins of The Athletic;
Multiple league sources have indicated Beal remains conflicted. His desire to stay for his entire career with the franchise that took him third overall in 2012 remains genuine. But Beal also remains uncertain about whether the Wizards can surround him with difference-making talent that will make them a regular playoff contender.
Also since posting part 1, Bradley Beal has officially not been named as an Eastern Conference All-Star Reserve.
And to review the questions:
- Should the Wizards continue trying to build around Beal?
- Can they build a good team around Beal?
- If you want to trade Beal, how would you even go about it?
Onto the roundtable:
Yanir Rubinstein: Marcus, great points. I wouldn’t read too much into the raw attendance percentage numbers, especially in a pandemic season with different cities having different rules regarding capacity. In the raw “total” numbers for home-game attendance the Wizards are 19th and they were also 19th back in 2018/19. Sure, they don’t quite fill the arena - they were 24th that season in attendance percentage which is still low - but it was over 86% which isn’t bad at all.
Note two things: 1) the low attendance numbers, while low, are pretty good from a revenue point of view, and 2) the numbers can also be explained by D.C. not being an NBA basketball city, or other factors. I think the front office realizes that if they trade Beal and tank the attendance will be even worse for several years. Hence, their business model with Beal gives a better bottom line in the year-end report.
I disagree about Beal having negligible NIL. Last year pumped up his NIL quite a bit as he was chasing Steph for the scoring title and basketball fans all around the world now know who Beal is. Sure, he’s no Steph, but hey, when has D.C. last attracted anybody of that caliber? Beal is a star that is about right for this market.
Marcus Atkinson: I have to respectfully disagree. Places that have arguably more restrictive local mandates like San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles aren’t seeing the same level of decline in attendance. Yes, their teams may be more relevant, but that is exactly what my point is. Beal is not enough of a draw that’s going to get folks going to games and the pre-pandemic numbers show, as you alluded to.
Ultimately my point is not if he is drawing enough to help local restaurants or anyone else impacted by this team. My point is that Beal is not the box office draw he is being portrayed as. Not even in his own city to justify the argument that so many have said, oh he’s bringing fans out. I don’t think a superstar player, which is what he will get paid as, and a box office draw would be ranked 24th (pre-pandemic) in attendance if people wanted to see him.
As a pure basketball fan, I absolutely want to see him play. I think he’s a good player and fun to watch, but what is the appeal to a casual fan? Does he have a bunch of endorsements? Signature shoes? Have his own brand? Done some acting? This is not to bash him, but this is to dispel the myth that he’s worth keeping because of the revenue he could potentially bring. Compare him to someone like Arenas, who didn’t do much more winning than Beal, but clearly was someone that drew interest in even casual fans.
And D.C. is absolutely a basketball city at its hart. It has a rich basketball history, but it has been hampered by inept professional basketball from this franchise. The city has shown when there are winners with basketball (i.e Mystics, Hoyas, Terps), this region will get behind them. The Wizards haven’t been to a Conference Finals in over 40 years. The reason we haven’t seen this city show out is because the Wizards have given this city nothing to cheer for.
Osman Baig: We’ve gone past the point of crazy with the entire Beal situation. I made the argument when Tommy Sheppard took over that a trade for Beal wasn’t necessary at that time - but that time did not mean with 30 games left before his opt out! Frankly, it’s crazy that we’re here given the lack of progress they’ve made. Maybe it took this post 10-3 slide for the team and Brad to come to that realization? Maybe some parties are still in denial?
There’s no reason to continue building around Beal. The task proved too difficult given the Supermax they already had (Wall) when Sheppard took over. He was able to move on from it and break it up into tradeable contracts, but the Wizards are handcuffed by the protections in the pick which OKC now owns. They can’t trade a 1st round pick until ‘28 without getting OKC to lift the protections which is risky and will cost even more!
Beal hasn’t carried his end of the bargain either. If a player wants to be the face of a franchise, it comes with a burden on the court and as a leader. So far, we’ve had on court spats between Deni and Bertans, KCP, and Harrell, their first-round pick was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, and now it’s being said Dinwiddie’s teammates don’t like him. Where’s the leadership? More importantly, where’s the 3rd team all-NBA player? Beal is in the midst of his worst season since his rookie contract and with his game evolving to a more on-ball role, I’m not convinced he gets it back!
The team, to make this work had to bat 1.000. They were trying to thread a needle and for that to happen, they couldn’t afford mistakes like the Bertans and Dinwiddie contracts. They also found rotational players in the draft but haven’t hit big, which they needed to make this work.
There are eight days until the deadline. If I were the GM, I’d ask Beal for a list of teams he wants to go to and try to work out the best deal before the deadline. Why now versus the summer? I don’t think the value in the summer will be much greater when he might come out and say I want these 1-2 teams specifically. In addition, our lotto odds this year would likely improve.
The biggest obstacle to this is probably Beal and Ted Leonsis. Those two are ultimately making the call. I get the hesitancy to go through a rebuild, but if a team is proactive, it doesn’t have to take long. Also, I don’t really get the sense that Beal is box office or selling tickets. I could be wrong and I’m sure it could be worse, but how much? Wouldn’t that be offset by potentially bringing back a top 5 and the excitement that comes along with a new, potential franchise player?
John Morrow: A majority of reporters, experts, and executives around the NBA have been in agreement on what the Wizards should do with Beal even prior to 2019, when Beal signed his most recent extension. The team was not, and very clearly now is still not, in a position to contend in the Eastern Conference. Beal turns 29 this summer prior to the start of free agency. Even putting his contract expiration aside, the Wizards should not be committing to building around Beal at his age and after his huge dip in performance. As the top player on the team for three (four if you include 2018-19) seasons, his position as the face of the franchise has led to 11th place out of 15 teams this season and to one play-in appearance last year. Surely, this does not provide reasons for the Wizards to reward a player with a massive pay bump and 5 years of the max level commitment with 4 of the 5 years coming after his 30th birthday.
Going into this season, most of the fan base seemed to be in alignment with what the plan should be. Integrate the new players and if things are looking good by mid-January, then go all in. To our surprise, the team got off to a really good start but it has all fallen apart since then. Blame the coaching, rotations, Dinwiddie and Bertans, front office meddling, it can be spun a number of ways. But the facts are that the Wizards are 24-27 through 51 games and trending the wrong way. Beal has fallen short with his play and with his leadership. The leadership has been most disappointing with poor body language paired with a lack of accountability and awareness regarding his role in the poor play. Other players are also openly talking to the media about needing a trade.
The dynamic seems to have changed in the last couple of weeks as fans are now also in agreement that a Beal move is likely in the best interest for all involved. Squandering further assets to pursue a play-in spot is not prudent. Getting this team to a play-in spot and losing either in one of those games or in the 1st round, will not change the majority’s thinking. There is a negative sentiment and a massive 5-year extension of Beal will not reverse that thinking.
Luckily, this collapse happened before the trade deadline. Trading Beal now should be the top priority as so much of the league is in a play-in or playoff spot and Beal can help jump-start a playoff run. Miami, Toronto, Golden State, Philadelphia, and potentially a few other teams would more likely than not present good offers including picks and young players. The sign & trade route that seemed like the best idea six weeks ago now seems to present unnecessary risk as the writing’s on the wall regarding this situation in D.C.
It is painful to think about how quickly this team fell apart this year after an encouraging beginning but the time is now to course correct and look towards a hopefully brighter future. This team ain’t it and isn’t going to be as constructed surrounding Beal. The league knows it, the team knows it, and the fans know it. We can only hope that Ted Leonsis and his organization confront reality.
Albert: I’m really late to this roundtable, but given that this is such an important issue and that I’m the boss (It’s still kind of strange for me to say that explicitly), I’ll answer the original three questions briefly which are above:
- No, the Wizards shouldn’t continue to build around Beal anymore. The Wizards’ abysmal record after November has shown us more than enough that it’s time to move on from him.
- Possibly, but we need context. The contract timing of this roster (multiple players like Thomas Bryant and Montrezl Harrell are on expiring contracts), as well as Beal’s looming “should we give him a supermax or not” question, and the Wizards’ losing stretch over the last couple months move me to a “no.” They can’t at this point.
- I would approach a Beal signing with the ideal intent of getting two first round picks: a first round draft pick this year and another one in the future plus some combination of veteran players. Given his performance this season, especially from three, I don’t think the Wizards will get more than one first round pick and some other players for him.
I think Beal could be a great addition to many teams, especially if he can rediscover his three point shooting form from the John Wall days. But the Wizards are better off building around a nucleus of younger picks (Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert) taking larger roles along with some veterans like Kyle Kuzma, who has blossomed indvidually. The Wizards aren’t going to perform that much worse than it has over the past couple months in my opinion without Beal.
Regarding the marketability of D.C., when I spoke to agent Todd Ramasar about Thomas Bryant (one of his clients), we talked about where D.C. is as a market among all NBA cities. He said while the population and the wealth make it a top market. it would still be under the tier of these cities like Los Angeles (Lakers/Clippers); New York (Knicks/Nets); Chicago (Bulls), and Toronto (Raptors). These cities have the combination of size, wealth, locally based hardcore fans and worldwide appeal that Washington doesn’t quite have. Winning and another franchise player would go a long way in terms of helping Washington as a market get there.
There you have it! That’s what our contributors think. Tell us what you think? Is this path sustainable or is a full rebuild the only way out? Is there an alternative we haven’t contemplated? What should the Wizards do about their Bealemma?