Bradley Beal appears to be a step closer to being traded before the NBA trade deadline on February 7. His team, the Washington Wizards, is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 16-24. They are on course for 31 wins, well short of the playoffs, and now star point guard John Wall will undergo heel surgery ,which will keep him out for 6-8 months.
According to reports the team was already considering trades for Beal and Wall, so this latest development only heightens that possibility. Washington needs cap space and assets for a rebuild. There is a fire sale coming and there will be no shortage of suitors for one of the league’s best scorers.
Beal is averaging a career high in points (23.6), assists (4.7) and rebounds (4.9) per game. He has also increased his two-point attempts per game to 11.9 as well as his percentage to 54.9, a big reason for his jump in points.
Teams will also be encouraged to trade for him because of his contract. He is set to earn just over $25.4 million this year and that will increase to $27.1 million next year and $28.75 million in 2020. This is a hefty price for a losing team like Washington but it now represents good market value. With the salary cap set to increase ,his contract is just under that of a max and he is tied in until the summer of 2021. This is a look at who those teams are and what they may give up in a potential trade.
One possible destination is the LA Lakers. The Lakers have made a better start than anticipated to the season. They are currently sixth seed in the Western Conference and just 3.5 games behind behind the leaders. There was much anticipation that LA would recruit through Free Agency in the summer but should the opportunity present itself, they may think this to be too good to pass up. Beal provides LeBron James with a certified scorer who will only thrive on a team where LeBron would attract much of the opponent’s defensive attention. Beal also gives the team with a scoring option if LeBron is out or needs resting. LA are 2-5 without LeBron this season so need all the help they can get.
The other benefit of trading for Beal is the Lakers do not run the risk of the Paul George situation happening again. They bargained on the forward joining in Free Agency and instead he chose to stay in Oklahoma. They did a similar thing this summer with Kawhi Leonard. By trading for Beal they would have an All-Star talent until 2021 and need not to panic if they don’t get as many of their targets.
LA also has assets that may entice Washington. They would need to give up at least one of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, or Brandon Ingram but LA may be convinced of this as Beal improves them here and now. Beal suits exactly what they need and with him they may be able to push a team like the Warriors further in the playoffs. LeBron’s age means LA have a small championship window. Beal allows them to maximise this while at just 25-years-old he would still retain trade value if they chose to move him afterwards for a rebuild.
It is possible this year may be Toronto’s best chance at going to the NBA Finals. This may seem strange given they were number one seed in the Eastern Conference last year but they are much better suited to a playoff run now. Kawhi Leonard looks healthy and close to his best buthis contract is up at the end of the year. It is still yet unknown on Leonard’s intentions but pairing him with another All-Star can only help. If Leonard was still to chose to leave Toronto then Beal would allow them to remain competitive and Toronto may even be seen as a desirable free agent destination.
The issue for the Raptors is that this comes at a price. According to Rod Beard of the Detroit News, Washington wants at least two players and two first round picks. This means Pascal Siakam, who is having a breakout year, would be going the other way along with a player like OG Anunoby. Our very own Matt Wellington has previously spoken about the importance of Anunoby and his improved play, so losing these two would undoubtedly be a gamble for the franchise but a backcourt of Beal and Kyle Lowry would rival that of anyone in the East.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans might possibly be the best fit for Beal but they also have the least to offer. The Pelicans currently sit 12th in the West and 3.5 games out of the playoffs. Anthony Davis becomes a free agent in the summer of 2020 and New Orleans need him to sign his ‘supermax’ extension this summer. Should Davis decide against that, then the Pelicans may be forced to trade him for ‘pennies on the dollar’ likely setting the franchise back years. If they are able to add Beal to the team alongside Jrue Holiday and Davis then they would have a great chance of making the playoffs and causing an upset. This would also allow Holiday to play more minutes at point guard and the Pelicans would have three players who can all pass and can all create their own shot.
The issue for the Pelicans is they don’t necessarily have the trade assets desirable enough to convince Washington to part ways. In a proposed deal they would likely offer Frank Jackson, Wesley Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Julius Randle and a variety of picks for the next three years. Many of these players would likely be flipped again in trades or waived so New Orleans may have to take on a bad contract from Washington such as Dwight Howard’s.
There is always one man who will enquire if a star is available to trade, and that is Boston’s General Manager Danny Ainge. Expect him to kick the tyres with Washington should Beal become available. They have the assets and quite frankly could outbit any team for his services. Boston currently sits fifth in the East and have struggled to be the team we expected them to be. Pairing Beal and Kyrie Irving in the backcourt would ignite any offense. Gordon Hayward would still be able to continue his role off the bench but Beal and Irving could be staggered allowing Hayward to play additional minutes at small forward. In the bigger picture Beal would give a team like Golden State much bigger problems as it would cause Steph Curry to have to guard one of two Boston stars allowing the Celtics to target a ‘weak’ point in Golden State’s defense.
The difficult issue for Boston would be the cap space. The deal that would make the most sense is Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Guerschon Yabusele, plus picks for Beal and Tomas Santoransky. This would get the deal under the cap, it would meet Washington’s demands plus it would help Boston. This is already likely to be Rozier’s last season in Boston and Smart makes sense for salary cap issues. Brown is a player with major potential but has regressed this season, maybe enough for Boston to question whether he is worth keeping another season considering he will be expecting to be paid in the summer of 2020 when his rookie deal expires. We know Ainge is willing to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade but this would be a difficult one to call.
It would be wrong of me pretend to be some sort of physic following my successful prediction of the Jimmy Butler trade earlier this season but if I had to guess where Beal ends up it would be New Orleans. They need Beal more than anyone else and, therefore, will be willing to sacrifice the most. One thing we can all agree on, however, is that it would be great to see Beal given the opportunity to play his prime years in a team with a brighter future than Washington’s.
Featured photo – via Will Newton / Getty Images / NBAE / Double Clutch illustration