The Washington Wizards have experienced a turbulent start to their 2018-19 season campaign. While the most common response to the idea of turmoil within this franchise is what else is new, this season has been particularly rough, and we are only 21 games in.
Following the news that broke a little over a week ago, reporting chaos within a specific Washington Wizards practice that led to confrontations between players and expletives being hurled at head coach Scott Brooks, the Wizards received more bad news. Dwight Howard, who has missed time this season due to a gluteal injury, will likely need surgery to resolve this health issue. This news is disheartening for a team who since their eruptive practice was 3-2 and appeared to be getting their season back on track to at least some degree.
The idea that the Washington Wizards were going to be able to make this year any different than years past, both on the court and in the locker room, was likely laced with at least a small dose of naivety. Per Adrian Wojnarowski, the front office made note for the league that they are fielding trade talks on all players on their roster. Bradley Beal undoubtedly has the highest trade value on the team and most coveted by other teams around the league.
A bonafide All-Star just entering the prime of his career on a manageable contract, it is expected that Beal could be the most likely Wizard player moved, even if Washington’s front office is looking for a hefty return. With the season moving along, a few teams could surprise the league and assert themselves as dark horse candidates to land Bradley Beal via trade.
Last year did not end quite the way the Detroit Pistons hoped it would. Finishing with a 39-43 record, and Blake Griffin out for the last eight game stretch of the season, earned them the ninth seed in the East falling just short of playoff contention. Adding Griffin to their roster last season has continued to pay off for Detroit so far this season, though. The all-star forward has already put up a 50-point performance and scored 30 or more in a third of their games thus far. Griffin’s fringe MVP numbers and Andre Drummond leading the league in rebounding while also scoring just under 19 points a night has brought them to the fourth seed in their conference.
The only problem for the Pistons is that beyond those two, they don’t have much else. The 11-7 Detroit Pistons could easily be a few wins ahead of where they are now if they had more help outside the frontcourt. Games like their October 30th loss to the Boston Celtics are especially frustrating for this team.
Despite Blake and Andre posting season average numbers and the Pistons grabbing significantly more offensive boards, they lost by three. Meanwhile, their third piece to a big three, Reggie Jackson scored eight points and sot 22.2 percent on the night. Jackson failing to have an impact by way of low scoring or extreme inefficiency has been thematic in four of their seven losses. Detroit’s need for a shooter in the backcourt as their third star is glaring.
(Bradley Beal enters stage left.)
The Detroit Pistons are in the bottom third of the league in three-pointers made, attempted, and percentage. Their overall team field goal percentage is third worst in the league, a product of the starting back court in Jackson and Reggie Bullock both shooting under 40 percent for the season. Bradley Beal is a no brainer as a type of shooter who could immediately contribute to turning these numbers around. A career 39 percent three-point shooter, Beal is one of the best perimeter threats in the league. His improved ability to bring the ball down and facilitate would be a great compliment to this team, who often utilizes Blake Griffin as the initiator of offense.
Bradley Beal would be the perfect number three to this team without having to sacrifice anything on the court. As they look to move past teams like the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks, a little extra star power may be the only way to do it.
The Pistons could work themselves into the mix for Beal if they are willing to propose a heavy package. It’s hard to imagine something like Jackson-Bullock-Luke Kennard and a first round pick wouldn’t catch the interest of Ernie Grunfeld and the Washington front office.
Los Angeles Clippers
Few teams have impressed to the extent the Los Angeles Clippers have. Hitting the reset button on their core players hasn’t seemed to phase them a bit. Seated at the very top of the Western Conference, Coach of the Year candidate Doc Rivers and his team could very likely pose a threat to other West teams with playoff hopes. However, the Clippers have big plans beyond just this season.
With the very possibility of being one of the few teams in the league with enough cap space for two max contracts, the Los Angeles Clippers aim to bring star players to the franchise. Names that have been discussed as targets are potential free agents like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler. As much of the 2019 free agent class looks to be growing more likely to stay put long term rather than seek a new opportunity, the Clippers could find themselves looking to avoid the chance that they conclude the offseason with nothing to show and try to trade for a star now.
Bradley Beal may not have the name appeal as players like Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, but his star potential shouldn’t be dismissed. Not only is he a proven scorer whose game has continued to develop through his six years in the league, but he is still very young. To add perspective, the former third overall pick is just a little less than four months younger than Anthony Davis.
Beal’s age also lines up with the timeline of the team’s current roster better than other possible free agent fits. If Los Angeles sought to retain Tobias Harris, the trio of Harris, Beal, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be an impressive young core. Because of his skill set, Beal would be the perfect type of player to place next to Gilgeous-Alexander and the two could make for one of the best defensive backcourts in the league. Combine his age and lack of mileage with the fact that he is already one of the best guards in the game and his potential should be obvious to the Clippers.
Los Angeles would likely have to wait until January 15th, as their best (and most favorable) bet at making a Beal trade happen would involve Avery Bradley. A package involving Bradley, Jerome Robinson, Milos Teodosic, and a future first round pick could be a viable offer for Beal.
New Orleans Pelicans
This season has been a lot of the same song and dance for the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis has a dominant performance, and they win. Anthony Davis doesn’t go bonkers, and they lose. This is far from dramatic, as the Pelicans are 1-8 when Davis scores less than 25 points or doesn’t play, but 10-3 when he scores 25 or more. To be fair, Jrue Holiday is quietly putting up impressive numbers. Role players like Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle are contributing, as well.
However, relying so heavily on Davis, and him often being the only player for them on the court with potential to take over a game, isn’t enough. This team’s early struggles may be costing Anthony Davis an MVP currently, but could cost the franchise Anthony Davis very soon if he decides that a supermax extension isn’t worth the lack of success he is seeing in New Orleans.
Bradley Beal could be the key to the Pelicans retaining Anthony Davis.
New Orleans is a team that struggles both in shooting the three, where they rank in the bottom third in efficiency, but also defending the three, coming in the bottom six of opponent three-point attempts, makes, and percentage. Pelicans’ guards Ian Clark, Frank Jackson, and E’Twaun Moore have all seen increased minutes due to injury and depth issues, and this is doing no favors for the team’s perimeter defense.
Adding Bradley Beal into the rotation would be an immense defensive upgrade. During a recent game against the Houston Rockets, Beal was able to hold James Harden, on a night he went off for 54 points, to 4-10 shooting, including 2-7 from deep, while forcing 7 turnovers on the 45 possessions he defended Harden.
Not only would he be a great fit alongside Holiday, bringing Bradley Beal onto the Pelicans’ roster would allow them to let Anthony Davis rest a little offensively at times. This would make it easier for A.D. to conserve energy in order have a defensive impact on every play. The ability to not have to go all out every night would favor Davis down the stretch of the season as well. Finishing the season rested is not a luxury that Davis has had before in his career.
With a lack of young assets, New Orleans would most likely have to give up heavy pick compensation for a player like Bradley Beal. Two first round picks haven’t been included in a trade since 2015, but the Pelicans’ front office may not have many options. It would be worth it if they were able to acquire Beal while also unloading salary like Solomon Hill. Something along the lines of Hill-Moore-Wesley Johnson and two first round picks would surely be viable offer for Bradley Beal. Julius Randle could be another piece New Orleans could look to move but would likely not be in any initial offer unless it was the only way to get a deal done.
Giving up two first rounders may be a sizable price, but Beal’s play alone is worth it. If giving Davis another superstar to play with influences his decision to stay, then it is hard to put a price on a move like this at all. Not to mention, in the worst-case scenario that Anthony Davis wants out and requests a trade, those picks will be easy to replace.