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Are the Wizards and Bradley Beal headed towards a breakup?

Should the star shooting guard look to leave Washington?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers
Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards looks on during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers during Round 1, Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs on June 2, 2021 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Wizards are headed for another interesting offseason.

One summer after dealing John Wall, considered a face of the franchise, and a lottery-protected first-round pick for Russell Westbrook, Washington faces a decision involving star shooting guard Bradley Beal. He has one year remaining on the extension he signed in 2019 and could be destined for a new team.

Trading for stars on an expiring contract presents a lot of risk for organizations. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler are no longer with the teams who traded for them ahead of free agency. A franchise must be convinced Beal will re-sign with the organization on a long-term deal or be close enough to contending to take a chance on the guard’s talents pushing them over the top. Here’s what each organization gave up in the above cases.

Leonard trade: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, protected first-round pick (TOR also received Danny Green)
George trade: Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis
Irving trade: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, first-round pick
Butler trade: Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, second-round pick (PHI also received Justin Patton)

However, a trade for Beal will likely require a lot more. The shooting guard is going to turn 28 later this month, meaning he is entering the prime of his career. Beal is coming off a season where he scored a career-high 31.3 points per game on a career-high 48.5 percent clip from the field. He may not be widely regarded as a top 5 or 10 player, but he’s a star capable of shifting the balance of power in the league on the right team. Here are recent trades involving George, Jrue Holiday and James Harden more in line with what a player of Beal’s caliber should bring back.

George trade: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, two first-round pick swaps
Holiday trade: Eric Bledsoe, two first-round picks, two first-round pick swaps
Harden trade: Rodions Kurucs, three first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps

There are other teams involved in the Holiday and Harden deals, but that’s a rough framework of what the team each player is currently on gave up. The Clippers went overboard with George because it meant Leonard’s signature as well. The hauls above are enticing enough for the Wizards to take serious enquiries on Beal.

Washington has made the playoffs five times in Beal’s tenure, but never made it past the second round. The team made valiant efforts to add talent around Wall and Beal, but could never find a combination capable of breaking through in the postseason. Rui Hachimura, Daniel Gafford and Deni Avdija represent the start of Washington’s rebuilding effort, but a true overhaul can only occur once the team’s stars are dealt.

Another advantage for the Wizards dealing Beal is their own draft picks. Washington controls the fate of its own picks for the foreseeable future. By dealing Beal and acquiring more assets, the Wizards can play their younger guys and likely maintain good draft positioning. If Washington doesn’t have high picks, it likely means one of the young players has the potential to be a star.

The downside of no guarantees exists. Any return for Beal is based on potential, while the guard remains a star. It’s hard to acquire players of that caliber. Washington is not dealing Beal in his prime unless he explicitly tells the franchise he wants out.

Few contending teams have the assets to make a trade for Beal, but here are five who could be heavily involved in attempts to land the guard.

Dallas Mavericks

One thing has become evident in Dallas’ playoff series vs. the Clippers: Luka Doncic needs a second star and Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t look like the answer. The 7-footer is still a great asset to have moving forward, but the Mavericks likely need to look elsewhere for Doncic’s running mate.

The Mavericks can offer a host of players to match salaries and a lot of future draft picks. They don’t have immediate ones due to the Porzingis trade, but enough future assets to sweeten the deal. There will be complications with Dallas entering the luxury tax, but the roster fit would work and Beal’s age lines up well with Doncic’s trajectory.

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have control of their first-round picks but won’t want to part with any of Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. They don’t have any other truly enticing young players after dealing Gary Harris to the Orlando Magic for Aaron Gordon. The Nuggets could trade Gordon, but the Wizards will want one of the three young players as a centerpiece. The roster fit is there and the Nuggets are being aggressive, but it’s hard to find a deal this offseason unless the Wizards part with Beal at a discount.

Golden State Warriors

This is another unlikely destination given the Warriors’ lack of developmental players to send to Washington, but Golden State’s draft assets are enticing. The Warriors control Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick, which is unprotected in 2022. They also hold their own future draft picks.

Golden State can use Andrew Wiggins as salary filler, but I don’t see any other players Washington can have which the Warriors would be okay dealing. James Wiseman can be included in a deal, but that’s about all Golden State can offer in terms of players.

This is the best roster situation for Beal. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the best shooting backcourt in history and Beal’s efficiency would skyrocket. This won’t put the Warriors at the same level Kevin Durant took them to, but they’d be championship contenders for sure.

Miami Heat

As detailed here, the Heat don’t have draft assets. However, they will have cap space this summer and a two-way star in Jimmy Butler. Tyler Herro is a decent prospect at Beal’s position and I have a feeling the Heat won’t mind trading Bam Adebayo if it meant landing a perimeter star like Beal.

Miami has pulled off stunners before and will always remain a destination for players. There’s one caveat to this happening; the Heat have to land a star in free agency first. There’s no way Miami is gutting the roster if a new “Big 3” isn’t forming and the only way the Heat will classify their group as a “Big 3” would be if Kawhi Leonard signed. Like all the above teams, the theoretical roster fit is great. The logistics are a lot more daunting.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have undergone some serious changes after being bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets. Danny Ainge is out and Brad Stevens is in a front office role, meaning Boston is looking for a head coach.

There’s a group of young players Boston can offer in any deal, but Jaylen Brown is probably the best prospect any team across the league would be willing to put up. He’s on a long-term deal and still developing, but Beal is the superior player at the moment. The Celtics have their first-round picks intact as well. Jayson Tatum is off the table, but I think the Wizards would be willing to settle for less draft compensation if Brown is in a deal.

Similar to Miami, Boston would only make this deal if it could swing a trade for another difference maker. While a core of Tatum, Beal and Kemba Walker would make the Celtics a playoff lock, it doesn’t get them quite to the level of the Nets or Milwaukee Bucks.

The Verdict

I think Beal tells the Wizards he wants to be traded. This would mean the team has until the 2021-22 trade deadline to look for a deal, but would lose on a return as that deadline approaches. I expect the Wizards to take calls on Beal this summer and will deal him to a contender by the start of next season.