Bradley Beal is the next logical superstar to be traded. He has missed the past two postseasons, and if the early portion of this season is any indication, he’ll make it three in a row this spring. He’s less than two years away from free agency. He’s voiced his frustration with teammates of Washington’s struggles. Yet whenever rumors about a possible Beal trade arise, reports quickly refute them. The Wizards are not interested in Beal, and by all indications, Beal is not interested in leaving the Wizards.
His agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed that in a recent interview with Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach. “He doesn’t want to quit on something,” Bartelstein said. “He’s an incredibly loyal guy, and he wants to always feel like he’s done everything he can to help something or someone be successful. It’s the way he was raised and what his values are based upon. It’s ingrained in him. It’s what makes him, in my mind, so unique. He’s all about the right things.”
Beal’s trainer, Drew Hanlen, echoed that sentiment. “Of course, Brad wants to win and doesn’t want his prime to be wasted on a losing team,” Hanlen wrote. “But [second-year Wizards general manager] Tommy [Sheppard] has always been good to Brad, and he wants to give him a chance to build a winning team around him in D.C.”
That’s an admirable goal, but one the Wizards will have a hard time achieving given their current circumstances. The Wizards are already far above next season’s projected salary cap, and when they’re done filling out the roster, could possibly land in the luxury tax. They’re hovering around that line this season as it is despite a 6-16 record, and they owe a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets as part of the Russell Westbrook trade.
That deal will be their biggest obstacle to immediate contention. Westbrook will cost over $90 million in the two seasons following this one, yet he is averaging below 20 points per game for the first time in over a decade. His poor shooting has helped push Washington down from No. 16 in offense last season to No. 21 this season, and for the second consecutive season, they are ranked No. 29 on defense.
But the Wizards have young talent. Back-to-back lottery picks Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija have flashed strong potential early in their careers, and the Wizards should have another high pick to use this season. If the Wizards wanted to make a win-now trade, they’d conceivably have the chips to do so. Depending on how patient Beal is willing to be, the Wizards could simply try to develop those players into long-term assets.
But Beal will be a free agent in 2022, and he isn’t the first superstar to push the idea of loyalty. That loyalty is usually tested by the temptation of immediate championship contention. That is available to Beal the moment he requests the trade, or the the moment he decides to pursue free agency in earnest in 2022. For now, he appears committed to winning in Washington, but the more the Wizards lose, the greater the challenge their front office will face in convincing him that achieving such a goal is even attainable.