The loss to the Orlando Magic last night likely solidified the direction this team is headed for the remainder of the season, and for that I am grateful. We can theoretically get to as high as 5th best odds in the lottery, which would give us an over 40% chance of jumping into the top 4 and securing one of Wemby, Scoot, Brandon Miller, or Amen Thompson, The point of this post is not to dwell on the NBA Draft, however-- I'll leave that to those more knowledgeable than me-- but it concerns the somewhat realistic prospect that Beal finally decides to jump from this sinking ship of a franchise. If he indeed does ask out, there are a number of constraints to trading him:
- His no trade clause;
- His gargantuan contract, which after this season will still be 4 years and over 200 million dollars;
- His small frame and position as a Shooting Guard, probably the least valuable position in the modern NBA;
- His injury concerns
With all those things in mind, his actual trade value is a lot less than his production on the court (which itself is puny in comparison to his contract). He is still a good enough player though, in my view, to elicit a positive return; he is not yet a truly negative asset. The Wizards could have gotten an absolute haul for him a couple of years ago, of course, but in natural Wizards fashion they wait until their assets lose the vast majority of their value.
Because of Beal's enormous contract the only teams that the Wizards could trade him to are teams that have negative contracts themselves, and those teams would also have to be buying players to make a postseason run. These criteria limit the available teams significantly. There is one team that fits it better than any other team, and that is the Miami Heat. They currently sit as the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, and have an excellent yet aging star in Jimmy Butler who the team brass might be interested in adding another star to pair with him and Bam Adebayo for a final push at going deep in the playoffs. The Heat also have a number of bad contracts that can be used to facilitate a deal for someone like Bradley Beal. Brad himself would likely be amenable to going to South Beach, with its warm weather and Florida's lack of state income tax, so he likely wouldn't veto a trade there. Thus, I present my trade proposal, which would occur on draft night in June:
Washington Wizards Receive: Kyle Lowry (1 yr, $29.6M); Duncan Robinson (3 yrs, $57.4M); Nikola Jovic (3 yrs $8.9M); 2023 Miami First Round Draft Pick (as of 3/22 this pick is projected to be 20th); 2027 Miami First Round Draft Pick, top 8 protected.
Miami Heat Receive: Bradley Beal (4 yrs, $207.1M); Delon Wright (1 yr, $8.1M)
Rationale for the Wizards: Finally ends the Bradley Beal era in Washington, a time marked by underwhelming seasons and injury concerns. This trade clears a lot of cap space for the future; the team would have Lowry's contract coming off the books in the summer of 2024. Taking on Duncan Robinson's contract is of course a negative, but it is the direct result of giving Beal such a bloated contract. His contract would finally come off the books in the summer of 2026, but an 18/19M per year contract is a lot more manageable to work around than Beal's supermax. The trade doesn't function solely as a salary dump, though; the Wizards receive Nikola Jovic, the 27th overall pick in the 2022 draft with potential, and two first round picks-- one this upcoming draft, and one protected in 2027. Receiving this kind of draft compensation for Beal, considering the significant risks a team would take in trading for him, would at this stage in his career be a pretty good haul. Delon Wright is also traded to the Heat in this deal because he is on the last year of his deal and would likely walk in free agency in 2024.
Rationale for the Heat: Going all in before Jimmy Butler starts seriously regressing. The Heat have tried to add another star player next to him for a couple of years now, but the bad contracts on the team in Kyle Lowry and Duncan Robinson have really prevented them from being able to acquire real talent. This trade for them solves both problems, getting rid of those two bad contracts and inserting a 29 year old talented shooting guard only a few years removed from having back to back seasons of averaging 30 points per game. This season, the Heat have the 25th best offensive rating in the entire league, and are the worst offense of any team not actively tanking. Adding Beal into their lineup adds a dynamic scoring option that is sure to greatly improve their offense. The Heat's main core- consisting of Butler, Adebayo, Herro, and now Beal- would be very talented and would have the potential to play well into May or even June. They also receive Delon Wright, a scrappy defensive minded point guard whose game and demeanor fits perfectly with the Miami Heat culture. Though there is risk involved in this trade, only giving up what amounts to a late first, a future protected first, and a rookie who current plays in the G League is likely a risk they are willing to take for a player of Bradley Beal's caliber.
Considering what the Wizards could have gotten for Beal just a couple years ago, this is admittedly a disappointing return, but in my opinion it is much better than nothing. More roster moves would almost assuredly be coming; Porzingis could be on the move as well in a separate trade. For now, though, the best thing that can happen for this franchise is to get super lucky in the draft and get a top pick. May 16th is less than two months away- right now, all we can do is hope and pray for the best.