Bradley Beal said he’d never request a trade from the Wizards. He lived through a frustrating season and still said he wanted to retire with Washington. He hyped his loyalty, emphasized that he’s different and said, “I’d die in that Wizards jersey.” He even signed a contract extension last year that seemed financially imprudent but kept him in Washington longer.
It’s time to take Beal at his word.
Which means the Wizards have a 27-year-old star committed to them. They owe it to him and themselves to surround him with the best supporting cast possible.
With that clear mandate, Washington did about as well as could be expected given its significant roadblocks.
John Wall‘s contract was the Wizards’ biggest impediment, and they upgraded to Russell Westbrook via trae. Don’t overstate the acquisition. Westbrook brings more name recognition than positive on-court impact. His contract also holds significantly negative value. But he’s better than Wall and nudges Washington toward the playoffs. A protected first-round pick that can’t land higher than No. 9 is a reasonable price for the swap. Wall’s contract might have been complete deadweight over the next three years. Westbrook is at least still playing at a star level.
The Wizards also re-signed Davis Bertans for five years, $80 million ($75 million guaranteed). That’s expensive, but Bertans is very good – and had a ton of leverage given to him by Washington. The Wizards refused to trade Bertans last year, signaling a clear desire to re-sign him, and had no way to adequately replace him if he left. They backed themselves into a corner with the 28-year-old and paid the price. But at least they retained the ace shooter.
In its other big signing, Washington filled a need with Robin Lopez. Thomas Bryant is growing into the starting center role, but Lopez raises the floor of physicality and defense at the position. Using nearly the entire non-taxpayer mid-level exception on a possibly backup center is an overpay. But at least it’s only a one-year contract. Perhaps, Lopez was the best player Washington could attract (though I have some doubts about that).
Deni Avdija was a reasonable No. 9 pick, though I thought Tyrese Haliburton and Devin Vassell were both better overall prospects and better fits. How much can Bertans, Avdija and Rui Hachimura play together at forward? Cassius Winston looks like a steal at No. 54.
Still, a team trying to win should never rely on a second-round rookie point guard. So, Washington also signed Raul Neto for the minimum to share backup duties with Ish Smith and Winston. Though far more durable than Wall, Westbrook has his own health concerns. The Wizards can’t be barren at such an important position – not while trying to win with Beal.
Despite all his loyalty talk, Beal has occasionally hinted at leaving. If Beal requests a trade or bolts in 2022 free agency, that ought to reflect poorly on him. He didn’t have to go so far above and beyond boilerplate platitudes on loyalty, especially to say how he differs from the typical player. He definitely didn’t have to sign the extension.
That’s why I’ve completely reversed course on Washington trading him. Why deal Beal for young players or tank for picks that Washington dreams would one day become as good as Beal? The Wizards have Beal and should feel secure about having Beal as long as they try to build a winner around him.
Washington won’t be great this year. The season could easily end in the play-in tournament. But the Wizards got better.
If that’s all Beal is asking in exchange for his commitment to the franchise, the Wizards delivered.
Offseason grade: C+