With the latest announcement of Bradley Beal's five-year extension, the Washington Wizards outdid themselves. There were various schools of thought when it came to what the best-case scenario was for the franchise.
The first was that Washington needed to re-sign Beal, regardless of whether or not it ends up an overpay (bold prediction: it will) because keeping the asset – even that an exorbitant number – is better than letting your best player in years leave for nothing. If things don't work out in a year or two, then you can look into a trade with the asset still locked into a long-term deal to get back a solid return and start a rebuild.
The second was that the Wizards were better off letting Beal go. More likely than not, this would come via a sign-and-trade to a team mutually agreed upon in order recoup some sort of value. The team might get half of his perceived value to the franchise itself, but it's better than running to back with Beal as your best player.
But no matter which camp you belonged to, it's hard to imagine anyone thinking that Bradley Beal's deal is a success for the franchise in any form of the word. The Wizards shot themselves in the proverbial foot with the way they handled Bradley Beal's latest contract.
Not only did they give him the full-max $251 million – the second-largest total of all-time and just too much cheddar for a player not in the top 10 – but they also provided him with basically every incentive imaginable just to stay:
Bradley Beal's 5 year, $251M extension with the #Wizards includes a 5th year player option, a full no trade clause, a 15% trade kicker and salaries of:
26-27: $57.1M (player)https://t.co/NifrhhQzLi
— Spotrac (@spotrac) July 7, 2022
Here are three (3) reasons why Bradley Beal's contract with the Wizards is worse than anyone could have imagined:
3 reasons Bradley Beal's new Wizards contract is worse than anyone could have imagined
Bradley Beal just isn't that guy
The frustrations with the contract aren't an indictment of Bradley Beal, the person. He's been a model citizen in D.C. and has done so much for the community in his time there. He even won the NBA Cares Community Assist Award in 2019. He's as upstanding of an individual as you could ask for in a franchise player, especially when you factor in his loyalty to the team and desire to win with the franchise that drafted him.
Bradley Beal, NBA Community Assist Award winner, with two students from his sponsored prep school pic.twitter.com/Ym9Pah33qz
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) June 25, 2019
The problem is he just isn't the same level of elite talent on the basketball court. He's a three-time All-Star in 10 NBA seasons and has made just one All-NBA team, a 3rd-team selection in 2020-21 that triggered the possibility of a supermax extension in the first place.
That's certainly a fine player and potentially a high-end second star on a team competing to win a championship. But at this stage in his career, he just hasn't show enough to be considered the alpha of a team with serious title aspirations – which should be the goal of every self-respecting NBA franchise.
That's been the case for all those against the super max in the first place, but what exacerbated things was the fact he got treated like one of the five best players in the league with the other terms of his deal.
The Wizards gave Beal all the bells and whistles
Beal shouldn't be dogged for getting every penny he could get. After all, most of us would do the exact same if blessed with the chance to be in his position. But the problem is he asked for what feels like every possible add-on he could get. With a dollar figure that largely seemed excessive already for his level of player, giving him (1) a player option on the fifth year of his deal, (2) a 15% trade kicker should the Wizards ever trade him, and (3) an outright no-trade clause is just unfathomable.
Beal becomes only the 10th player to have a no trade clause joining LeBron, KG, Melo, Dirk, Kobe, DWade, Duncan, David Robinson and John Stockton.
The contract also has a 15% trade kicker and player option in year 5. https://t.co/NcUmDcyUMM
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) July 6, 2022
The player option is forgivable, if not a true head-scratcher, given that the dollar amount was already more than anyone else in the league could offer. But the trade kicker and no-trade clause truly stand out. Those give Bradley Beal complete control over his future when it comes to deciding where he wants to go in any prospective trade.
While you could argue that it's just a formality when players already virtually hold no-trade clauses in principle nowadays when it comes to choosing their destinations, the trade kicker is not exactly defensible. That likely sours any prospective return package the Wizards could get given that he already is making the second-largest contract in total dollar value ever, then tacks on an additional 15% if sent to another team. Any team looking to trade for Beal in the future isn't going to ignore that aspect. They're going to ask for a discount.
The Wizards reminded us that nothing has changed
The Wizards have been burned by big gambles on their franchise guards in the past. But that should be old news, right? Ernie Grunfeld is gone with Tommy Sheppard supposedly bringing in a proper changing of the guard in the front office. Ted Leonsis continues to spout that the end goal is to be competitive and gun for titles while slowly building year after year.
But with the Bradley Beal signing, which without the minutia was already going to be questionable in of itself, the Wizards front office fail to prove they're any different from iterations past.
There's a good chance that trading Bradley Beal would not have been worth it. Perhaps the Wizards get some picks and a hodgepodge of pieces that don't form any parts of a foundation for a promising future. But at the very least if the team explored that route, it shows they're willing to risk, to go for broke in order to get off from the treadmill of mediocrity that the team has been in for quite some time. Instead, here we are.