While the 2021-22 NBA season is still underway for four teams, the rest of the league’s 26 teams are gearing up for the first part of the offseason, which is free agency. Some big names could be hitting the market and switching teams, but the three biggest names have player options and will most likely be staying put with their current teams.
Among that big three is Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. After posting the best season of his career during the 2020-21 season, in which he scored 31.3 points per game, Beal took a step back this season, thanks in part to a poor Wizards roster and a slew of injuries he dealt with throughout the year. Beal could hit the open market, but he has a player option that gives Washington the inside track at retaining him.
Although Washington is seemingly headed towards a rebuild, Beal has always wanted to stay and win with the Wizards. And as he braces for the biggest contract of his career, that still appears to be the case, as Beal is reportedly leaning towards re-signing with the Wiz on a massive $250 million deal.
“The event comes smack in the middle of a watershed summer for the Wizards’ star guard. Beal said he is still leaning toward signing a multiyear deal with Washington worth roughly $250 million in July, and in the meantime, he’s focused on rehab after having his cast removed in late April following season-ending wrist surgery in February. ‘Surgery was good; recovery went well. Had no issues,’ Beal said.” - Ava Wallace, The Washington Post.
Why would Beal want to re-sign with a bad Wizards team?
It’s not a stretch to say that Beal could probably find his way to a winning team this offseason if he wanted to. The Philadelphia 76ers are a team exploring their options after their James Harden plan didn’t produce the expected results this season, and they were rumored to be keeping an eye on Beal’s status. The Boston Celtics have also been constantly linked to Beal, thanks partly to his lifelong friendship with Jayson Tatum, although their playoff success may have eliminated the need for such a move.
With Washington hovering around the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the motive for this deal in Beal’s eyes has to be the money. Washington can offer him a supermax deal of five years, $250 million, whereas other teams can only go as high as four years, $182 million. That would make Beal the owner of the largest contract in NBA history. Beal has also made it clear he wants to win with Washington, so by signing a long-term deal with them, he will get paid and have a chance to win a championship with his longtime team.
What Beal’s deal would mean for the Wizards and the rest of the NBA
As the Wizards have struggled over the past few years, Beal has become one of the top trade targets in the league. This mammoth deal would remove him from such lists for the immediate future and give Washington their star to build around for the next few years.
In free agency, it would put the focus more on Harden and Kyrie Irving, the other two top free agents who have their own player options. Both have murky futures with their current clubs, but it would be surprising to see them go elsewhere this offseason. It also puts the focus on Zach LaVine, the top unrestricted free agent on the market who appears increasingly unlikely to re-sign with the Chicago Bulls.
Whether or not Washington should give Beal this deal remains to be seen. Beal will turn 29 next month, and he may have already started to regress this season. He’s a ball-dominant guard who scores a lot because he takes a lot of shots, but he struggles in other areas of the game. Beal averaged a career-high 6.6 assists per game this season, but his scoring output dropped nearly eight points per game.
Giving Beal the largest contract in NBA history seems a bit far-fetched too. To say he’s worth more than every other player in the league is just wrong. Beal is a fantastic scorer, but he remains unproven in many other areas of the game. On the other hand, Washington could benefit from giving itself some sense of direction after being in turmoil over the past few seasons.
While it’s not official until the pen hits the paper, the free-agent market seems set to lose one of its top players in Beal fairly early. Beal is almost certainly not worth the $250 million price tag that he would receive, but it may allow the Wizards to build a solid core around their star player, which could help the franchise move in the right direction for the first time in a while.