The Washington Wizards are in a very strange spot as they enter the 2022-23 NBA season. They seem to think they are a playoff team despite the fact they don’t have a ton of talent on their roster. In a crowded Eastern Conference, the Wizards may be set to miss the playoffs entirely for the second straight season.
The Wizards are being built around star guard Bradley Beal. Beal has quietly emerged as one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA in recent years, and has been responsible for any success Washington has had in previous seasons. The issue there hasn’t been much success to speak of.
Beal’s future with the Wizards had been up in the air over the past few seasons due to the lack of talent surrounding him, but he a signed a massive five-year, $251 million deal with Washington this offseason, committing his future to the only team he’s ever known. It’s quite a big deal, but one the Wiz should not have made. Let’s look at the big move that Washington should have actually made with Beal this offseason.
Wizards offseason move they needed to make
Let Bradley Beal go
Rather than re-sign Beal to a massive long-term extension, the Wizards would have been better served moving on from Beal. I say move on because, by waiting this long, the Wizards didn’t have a ton of options with Beal. They could have either re-signed him to a massive deal, let him walk, or execute a complicated sign-and-trade that would have at least netted them something in return for their best player.
The issue is not with Beal himself. Beal is a star, and the Wizards are very clearly a better team with him on their roster. His 2021-22 season wasn’t as good as his 2020-21 season, and it ended up getting cut short due to a left wrist injury. But even then, Beal still averaged 23.2 points and 6.6 assists per game.
The problem is the state of the Wizards franchise. They have virtually no talent surrounding Beal. Washington’s starting lineup currently projects to feature Monte Morris, Beal, Will Barton, Kyle Kuzma, and Kristaps Porzingis. There’s some potential here, but their ceiling is as a Play-In Tournament team in the East, and chances are they would get bounced quickly if they even made it there.
The Wizards have been teetering on the edge of a rebuild for the past few seasons, with Beal really being the only thing keeping them relevant. Beal has expressed a desire to stay with Washington despite their inadequecies for whatever reason, and the Wizards have decided that was enough to ignore the rebuild they desperately need and build around Beal.
The problem is that their ability to rebuild around Beal has been destroyed partly by their desire to hold onto Beal for no good reason. Beal now is the holder of the largest contract in NBA history, meaning the Wizards are going to have a very large chunk of their salary cap going towards Beal.
Daniel Donabedian ·
With Beal on their roster, the Wizards are smack dab in the center of the league. They aren’t good enough to make it to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad enough to secure a high draft pick. They are stuck in mediocrity, and they just married themselves to five more years of nothing with their extension to Beal.
There’s a chance they earn a Play-In spot, but the Wizards probably aren’t going to be very competitive throughout the entirely of Beal’s deal. They have a ton of money tied up to him now, limiting their ability to make moves in free agency, and they don’t really have a war chest of draft picks. They own all their future first rounders, but again, that’s not much help if you aren’t able to land a high draft pick.
At this stage, letting Beal walk would have been better for the Wizards than handing him this massive deal. The Wizards could have at least started a rebuild, but now they have to try to remain competitive around Beal. They probably could have tried to work a sign-and-trade deal for Beal here, but it would have been very complicated given the nature of his massive contract, and may not have been plausible.
Instead, the Wizards tied themselves to Bradley Beal for the future with no way to improve themselves. Rather than accept the fact that they need to rebuild, the Wizards believe that they can be competitive in the near future. But their logic is flawed, and now they are stuck with a relatively uncompetitive team that will continue to ride the line of mediocrity for the next few seasons.