Basketball

The Wizards Needed to Trade Bradley Beal

USA Olympic Team
USA’s Bradley Beal dunks against Australia during Monday’s exhibition game in Las Vegas. Photograph: John Locher/AP

The Wizards needed to make a big move this off-season.  The Wizards needed to either add a third star player, or trade Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, and rebuild.  Both Beal and Westbrook had the ability to opt out of their contracts after next season. Because they traded Westbrook, they also needed to trade Bradley Beal. 

The Wizards Needed to Trade Beal and Rebuild

The Wizards did not add a third star player, and decided to trade Westbrook to Lakers just prior to the draft.  In deciding to go this direction, the Wizards needed to trade Beal.  By trading Westbrook, and not Beal, the Wiz went halfway. Now, barring some other major move, they are stuck squarely in the middle. Not where you want to be in pro sports, especially in the NBA.  Not good enough to meaningfully compete in the playoffs, and not bad enough to be in position to draft a franchise changing player.

The Wiz actually did get better (and younger) on draft night by trading Westbrook, and drafting Kory Kispert.  Kispert is an absolute sharp-shooter and will add to Davis Bertans from the three-point line. The three younger veteran players received in return for Westbrook, Kyle Kuzma, Montrez Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, are each capable of contributing to an improved roster. Harrell and Pope are especially capable of improving the defense where the Wiz have been dreadful.  Additionally,  the Wiz acquired the no. 22 overall picked and flipped it to acquire Aaron Holiday, a solid point guard from the Pacers.   The Wiz also cleared cap space by trading Westbrook. The team subsequently signed PG Spencer Dinwiddie as the primary replacement for Westbrook.    

Notwithstanding the roster reconstruction in the wake of the Westbrook trade, the Wizards are not a championship contender.  Unless former first round picks, Rui Hachimura and/or Deni Avdija, develop into star players, the upside of the Wizards roster remains limited.  While Hachimura and Avdija have shown flashes, it appears unlikely that either one will become a franchise changing star.  Thus, the Wiz needed to capitalize on Beal’s sky-high trade value and move him to a contender in order to rebuild its roster. 

Bradley Beal’s Trade Value Will Never Be Higher

Bradley Beal’s continued loyalty to the franchise is commendable.  However, the Wiz needed to trade him along with Westbrook. Beal’s trade value will never be higher.   Because DC is not a “destination city” for top free agents, the Wiz need to hit on high up-side draft picks.  Trading Beal was their best chance to do that.  A total re-build now made further sense based on the team’s hiring of a new young coach in Wes Unseld, Jr.

It was thought that the Wiz could have potentially demanded some combination of Andrew Wiggins, athletic big James Wiseman (2nd overall pick last year), the 7th and 14th overall picks in this year’s draft and two future first round picks in a trade for Beal with the Golden State Warriors.  Now that is an absolute haul.  And while there is no certainty in what Wiseman, or the picks will amount to, the potential upside of that deal (or some combination of players and picks in that deal)  is far too much to pass up if you are a non-destination franchise like the Wizards.

Wiggins, a former no. 1 overall pick who is only 26 years old, is a solid pro.  A 6’7 wing who has averaged 19.5 pts., 4.4 reb., 2.3 ast. and 1.0 stl. per game over his 9 seasons in the league, www.basketball-reference.com/players/w/wiggian01.html.   Wiseman, the 2nd overall pick just last year, is a young, athletic big man with massive upside.  The 7th overall pick became Jonathan Kuminga, a 6’8 athletic power forward who can score and defend (potential future stars Davion Mitchell, Franz Wagner and James Bouknight were also available with the 7th pick) and the 14th pick became Moses Moody, a 6’6 wing player from Arkansas who can really score. 

Add in two future first round picks, and you have a young roster with tremendous upside and potential star power. Clearing Beal’s contract would also provide additional financial flexibility to add a veteran as needed. See, for example, Chris Paul with the young Phoenix Suns this past season.

Of course, the Wiz are a better team right now with Beal than without him. At best, however, they are a bottom half playoff team in the Eastern Conference. If the goal is to ultimately to build a championship contender, they needed to trade Bradley Beal. 

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