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Bradley Beal has long been on the list of sensible trade targets that somehow remain off limits to the rest of the league. Despite the Washington Wizards‘ downward trajectory, despite John Wall’s unavailability and despite the $63.3 million Beal is owed over the next two seasons (plus a $37.3 million player option for 2022-23), the star shooting guard has been left out of the rumor mill, save for other teams wishfully listing him as a target.
Nothing really changes on that front with Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reporting that the Brooklyn Nets have internally discussed trading for Beal; any team looking to seriously compete over the next 1-5 years should have discussed such a trade, even if his hefty salary prohibits most contenders from actually making a legitimate offer.
The Nets are one of the rare squads with the cap flexibility, draft picks and enticing young assets to actually bring something to the table, even for an obstinate Wizards organization that understandably wants to hold on to its only relevant player. Beal wasn’t rewarded with an All-Star selection this year due to Washington’s 24-40 record, but the individual talent was clear, as the eighth-year guard posted a career-high 30.5 points, 6.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds a night.
The question is what it will take to convince a new-look front office in Washington that the time is right to completely blow up the remnants of a middling playoff team. Wall should be back fully healthy next season, but aside from him and Beal — both of whom sport hefty contracts that make it nigh impossible to facilitate a one-year turnaround in terms of upgrading the supporting cast — this roster is largely devoid of playoff-caliber talent.
This group is clearly in need of an infusion of draft picks and young players with potential to spearhead a full-scale rebuild, and the Nets are one of the few teams that can provide the right blend of each. A package featuring Caris LeVert ($16.2 million next season), Spencer Dinwiddie ($11.5 million), Jarrett Allen ($3.9 million) and a future draft pick makes sense for a star of Beal’s caliber, matches his $29 million salary for next season and would restock Washington’s bare cupboard of assets.
While LeVert has more than proven himself capable as the potential third star alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, his health has been a mixed bag in recent years, making it impossible to predict what the Nets will be getting from him for the long haul when the goal is winning a championship as soon as next season. A team like the Wizards can be more patient when he needs time to recuperate, allowing him the patience and wide-open environment to blossom to his fullest potential without having to cede touches to KD and Kyrie.
Allen should be the center of the future for Brooklyn, but the Kenny Atkinson power struggle clearly demonstrated that DeAndre Jordan — for whatever reason — needs to be getting minutes on any team that has his friends Durant and Irving on it. Dinwiddie is another casualty in this process of balancing out salary, especially since he’s still only 27 years old and in the midst of his best season yet, averaging 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game.
Throw in the fact that Brooklyn has a 2020 first-round pick coming from the Philadelphia 76ers (via the LA Clippers) and suddenly this organization makes a lot of sense as a potential trade partner if the Wizards wise up and decide they’re ready to start making moves.
On the Nets’ end, while giving up the young talent that general manager Sean Marks slowly, painstakingly accrued over the years while being completely barren of assets would be a tough pill to swallow, now is not the time to get shy. Brooklyn already has Durant, Irving and the flexibility to swing a move for third superstar; Beal’s past injury history is somewhat worrisome, but he’s also only 26 years old and has been much more durable lately, missing just seven games over the last three seasons.
A healthy Big 3 of Durant, Irving and Beal would automatically catapult Brooklyn to title contender status in the East, even if it’d come at the cost of their future cornerstones. That steep price might be worth it if the Nets could flank their Big 3 with the right accompanying pieces to win a title, and at just 26 years old, it’s not like Beal is a solely a win-now move; he’s also a long-term investment and a damn good one considering how prolific he’s been despite a severely lacking supporting cast over the last few seasons.
In the end, this will really come down to Washington’s willingness to make the tough but wise call to blow it up. The writing has been on the wall since, well, Wall got injured. Dealing Beal, while he’s healthy, young and in his prime, makes sense for a team with a low ceiling that needs to start constructing its rebuild. The Nets are one of the most logical trade partners out there for Beal, but if the Wiz cling to the fading hope that he and Wall can still lead this pitiful group somewhere, it could upend a sensible and exciting transaction before it ever sees the light of day.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor wrote a thoughtful piece about how testing should be at the center of the NBA’s plans to relaunch.
The Ringer also continues its “storylines beneath the surface” series by taking a look at the Southwest Division.
Logan Murdock’s account of how Draymond Green went from injuring Marquese Chriss to mentoring him is worth your time.