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#SoWizards Podcast: The Summer of (almost) Fine

2022 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Wizards almost made it. Ron Oakes-Cunningham and I recorded before the details of Bradley Beal’s contract emerged, and while neither of us thought the supermax deal made a bit of sense, we still agreed the offseason moves were fine. Other words we used to describe the team’s maneuvering included okay, not bad and modest upgrade.

And then, Tommy Sheppard and Ted Leonsis went #SoWizards, and they gave Beal literally everything they possibly could.

  • The absolute highest dollar value they could pay? Check.
  • 15% trade kicker? Check.
  • No-trade clause? Check.

Bright side? It’s unlikely to be the worst contract in franchise history.

Anyway, in this episode, Ron and I analyzed the Beal contract and the team’s other moves so far this offseason. We also delved into the iffy strategy of not taking a swing on high-producing players like Dejounte Murray, an All-NBA level performer, who the Atlanta Hawks acquired for the corpse of Danilo Gallinari and some first-round picks.

The team is tied to Beal — or whatever they can get for him if requests a trade (which will be considerably less now that he’s paid so much and has veto power on any deal) — for the next five seasons, so why not spend some draft capital for someone who fits the “win now” timetable?

The issue isn’t really Beal, of course. Sure, he’s still mouthing the same cliches about wanting to win and doing it in Washington, when it’s abundantly clear other priorities come before winning for him. Which is FINE, by the way — he’s allowed to make business decisions and do what’s best for his family and future generations. Very few players — even the ones who are “all about winning” are actually “all about winning.”

The most psychotic competitors the game has ever seen aren’t taking the minimum or even significant discounts to make sure their team can spend more on The Supporting Cast. In a few cases, players have taken a little less. When Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did it to form a “super team” in Miami, they caught a raft of criticism — including from the players union. Union leadership thought it set a bad precedent when the game’s best players took less to help their team win because it could empower teams to make similar requests of players further down the line.

Anyway, in the vast majority of cases, the best players take the maximum salary and whatever perks they can get.

While Beal is not among the best players, he’s been very good, and as Kevin noted in the podcast, he’s worked hard and come about as close to reaching his potential as anyone the Wizards have drafted. It’s on the team to properly assess and place values on their players, and as Ron and Kevin (and others) have noted many times, the Wizards persist in doing a poor job of that. The team believes (or pretends to believe) he’s an elite player at the pinnacle of the game, which he is not and has never been.

That fundamental misevaluation (whether it’s real or them pretending is irrelevant because of their actions) is the root cause of a cascade of suboptimal roster decisions. For example, the individual roster moves they made this offseason were fine. But they’re the kind of fine moves that good teams make when they’re looking to maintain. They’re what teams do when they have their stars and some supporting cast in place.

The problem: The Wizards don’t have stars. The supporting cast could be okay...if they had a truly elite player or three or four very good ones at the top. Instead of going out and getting a player (or two) like that, they’re content to diddle at the edges because they think they have their star. It’s preposterous.

It’s hard to look at the contract given to Beal and think the Wizards front office is pursuing a franchise-level strategy with even a remote chance of succeeding. If they believe Beal is an elite player who will deliver value commensurate with the contract, they’re delusional. Worse, their capitulation on every aspect of the contract to a less than elite player signals weakness and desperation. That doesn’t attract or motivate elite performers.

All that said, the team is modestly better than they were last season. So they’ve got that going for them.

Listen here, below, or wherever you get your podcasts.