Put on your general manager hat for a moment and ask yourself this question: If my team struggled mightily the past couple seasons, is struggling now and will continue to struggle, would I trade my franchise star?
It's an extremely difficult decision to make, but it's something the Washington Wizards have to be pondering with shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Beal has been on an absolute rampage through 11 games, posting a league-high 34.9 points per game on 49% shooting and 38% from distance. He's also dishing out five assists and grabbing 5.3 rebounds with 1.5 steals. All that in 36 minutes a night, yet the Wizards are 3-8 which is the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference.
"I'm pissed off," Beal told reporters after his 60-point game on Jan. 6. "I'm mad. I don't count [them]. ... Any of my career-highs, they've been in losses. So I don't give a damn. You can throw it right out the window with the other two or three I've had."
His frustration is evident, and though he hasn't verbalized that he wants out of D.C., it's hard not to think that the idea hasn't crossed his mind at least once with how bad the Wizards have been recently.
From 2018-20, they went a combined 57-97 with John Wall sidelined after he tore his Achilles. Before this season began, the Wizards acquired Russell Westbrook in exchange for Wall and a pick, thinking they were getting an upgrade at point guard. Plot twist, they weren't.
Wall is healthy and playing good basketball in Houston while Westbrook is sitting back-to-backs and is currently nursing a quad injury. More importantly, he doesn't make them much better because of his lack of defense and is thus piling up meaningless triple-doubles that don't translate to team success.
Bringing in Russ was an attempt to not only strengthen the team but more importantly, to keep Beal happy and avoid a scenario in which he wants out.
Trading Beal would obviously make the Wizards worse, we all know that. But they're not making the playoffs with this current roster, especially after Thomas Bryant went down for the year with ACL injury. And they are arguably the worst defensive team in the NBA, surrendering 121.3 points a night on 49% shooting, per Team Rankings. They are terrible and they are not magically going to improve overnight. Scott Brooks is on that hot seat, too. But not even a new coach can salvage this season.
The solution for Washington is to rebuild around its young talent including the aforementioned Bryant, Rui Hachimura, rookie Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans who's only 28.
What can the Wizards get for Beal?
We saw the return Houston got from Brooklyn for James Harden. Four first-rounders, four pick swaps and Victor Oladipo after getting the Pacers involved in the deal. And though Beal isn't quite Harden, he's still an elite player who will command a massive haul for the Wizards.
The Blazers gave up two firsts for Robert Covington and the Bucks gave up Eric Bledsoe, two firsts and two pick swaps for Jrue Holiday. Beal is better than both of them. So general manager Tommy Sheppard will certainly get a combination of multiple players and picks for his superstar.
Which teams would want Beal?
A handful of contenders would presumably be interested in the two-time All-Star including the Nuggets, Heat, Sixers with teams like Hawks and Grizzlies on the outside looking in.
Denver could use Michael Porter Jr. as the centerpiece of a package and Miami could do the same with Tyler Herro. Philly also has young players like rookie Tyrese Maxey and defensive-minded Matisse Thybulle plus future assets that it could throw to the Wizards.
And with the Nets now featuring a trio of Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Heat president Pat Riley would be licking his chops to add Beal alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to return to the NBA Finals again this season.
Please, for the love of basketball, free Bradley Beal.
The NBA season starts in two weeks, and with no Summer League and shortened training camps and preseason, the incoming rookie class will have to adapt quickly to the association.
Of course, some will adapt more quickly than others, and their numbers will reflect it. Players like James Wiseman on a contending Warriors squad. High-flying Knicks forward Obi Toppin who will be putting guys on posters all season. Frenchman Killian Hayes, who according to Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey is the team's starting facilitator.
Dwane Casey said that Killian Hayes is the starter at point guard right now.— Omari Sankofa II (@Omari Sankofa II) 1607280336.0
These young studs and many more could have big roles from the jump and thus be viable fantasy basketball candidates.
That being said, here are five rookies that should be rostered in fantasy leagues this season, factoring in their teams' current situations and the players' projected stats.
5. Killian Hayes
19-year-old Hayes is already being given the keys to the car, though the car is a Ford Focus. But maybe Hayes will turn the Focus into a Mustang; we'll see. For now, he brings a combination of shooting, driving and playmaking to a Detroit team that is in need of elite guard play aside from Derrick Rose, who wants to help groom the rookie into a star.
They have so many forwards on their roster that we might see Blake Griffin starting alongside Hayes in the backcourt (only partly joking).
But at 6-foot-5 and with an 80-inch wingspan, the international point guard exhibits the ability to score at all three levels. He's patient when looking to attack the rim and has good body control, but he's going to have to develop a right-handed drive over time.
Projected stats: 14.3 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.1 RPG, 35% 3PT FG
4. Obi Toppin - Knicks
The Knicks actually had a decent offseason, which is rare to say, and it was highlighted by drafting the guy they had been eyeing for a while: Obi Toppin. The 22-year-old forward was the NCAAM AP Player of the Year and is known for doing things like this in games:
Obi Toppin's Knicks debut is 2 weeks from today https://t.co/zZu88NGpqL— NYK-NYJ-NYY-4Life (@NYK-NYJ-NYY-4Life) 1606516466.0
Because of his age and talent, Toppin should be a plug-and-play option who sees a lot of minutes early on. He's not locked in as a starter yet, as Julius Randle will presumably fill that slot. But Toppin could quickly overtake Randle as the team's top power forward as his game complements that of sophomore guard RJ Barrett's better.
Also noteworthy, the 6-foot-9 New York native has been working on his three ball nonstop during the offseason, an area that Randle has struggled with. Last season at Dayton, Toppin averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds on 63% shooting in about 32 min a game, including 39% from deep, although he barely attempted three triples a night. Regardless, he will provide the Knicks with some much-needed energy as they look to dig out of their lengthy hole of irrelevancy.
Projected stats: 13.5 PPG, 7 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 54% FG
3. James Wiseman - Warriors
After playing just three games at Memphis for Penny Hardaway, James Wiseman went No. 2 overall to the Warriors and immediately fills the team's need for a starting center. He's not expected to be a nightly 20/10 guy, though that was his average in his brief collegiate career, even as the Dubs aim to get back in the playoffs.
But Wiseman will be playing in a Steve Kerr system centered around the GOAT shooter in Stephen Curry and one of the league best passing forwards in Draymond Green. The 7-foot-1 big will be involved in both PNR and pick-and-pop action, as he can space the floor with his shooting. He will benefit from short dump off passes, lobs, running the floor and will clean up the glass on both sides of the floor. Draymond will maximize the rookie's length on defense, too.
Projected stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 58% FG
2. Anthony Edwards
He went first in this year's draft, but I have him second on this list. Nevertheless, Anthony Edwards has drawn comparisons to James Harden, though he compares himself to Dwayne Wade. Edwards' 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame is more than ideal for a shooting guard, and with an 82-inch wingspan and 42-inch vertical — he will be finishing above the rim more often than not and can make a defensive impact as well.
His perimeter shooting might be inconsistent at times, as the 19-year-old connected on just 29% of his triples in his lone season at Georgia. But he should get some quality looks in a lineup featuring a talented duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell.
But playing alongside two All-Stars makes Edwards the third option, which isn't bad for a guy who wants to be playing football.
Projected stats: 15.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 44% FG, 31% 3PT FG
1. LaMelo Ball - Hornets
The No. 3 overall pick in 2020, LaMelo Ball enters a crowded Charlotte Hornets backcourt that features Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham. Rozier is coming off career-highs of 18 PPG, 4.1 APG and 40% three-point shooting in the 2019-20 season — the first of his three-year, $57 million contract.
Graham, on the other hand, skyrocketed in his sophomore season, averaging 18.2 points and 7.5 assists after scoring less than five points a game the season prior.
But the 19-year-old Ball is a highly-touted prospect, and at 6-foot-8, his size combined with his playmaking and finishing ability could slot him as the team's starting point guard. Starting Rozier and Graham would leave Charlotte undersized in the backcourt, and with neither guard being a defensive specialist, that could be a problem.
LaMelo Ball's Teammates Say His VISION For Game NEXT LEVEL youtu.be
Plus, you don't draft a guy top-3 and bring him off the bench, right? I mean, you got that pick because your team sucked last season.
LaMelo will have the ball in his hands a lot (see what I did there) and will emerge as one of the team's best playmakers in addition to newly acquired veteran forward Gordon Hayward. The guard might struggle with his outside jumper a bit, but he's shown he has the range and confidence to take to take and make long-distance jumpers. He's my pick for Rookie of the Year.
Projected stats: 14.2 PPG, 6.8 APG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG
The draft saw a few trades that sent some familiar faces to new places and the free agency period is now open.
In less than a week, we've seen the defending champion Lakers acquire dynamic guard Dennis Schröder from OKC. Chris Paul is now in Phoenix with Devin Booker and the Suns. Jrue Holiday and, well, just Jrue Holiday, is joining Giannis in Milwaukee, and that's just a few of the big moves around the NBA so far.
But with all that excitement comes some bad news as well. Warriors star Klay Thompson tore his Achilles and will miss the entire 2020-21 season. This after the sharpshooting guard missed the previous season with a torn ACL. It's a tough blow for the Dubs as they sought to contend for a title this season, but without Thompson, the odds are against them. General manager Bob Myers wasted no time in bolstering the roster, however:
The Golden State Warriors are finalizing a trade to acquire Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kelly Oubre, Jr., for a 2… https://t.co/5VDqSmtyhH— Adrian Wojnarowski (@Adrian Wojnarowski) 1605837968.0
Kelly Oubre, within a matter of days, went from Phoenix, to Oklahoma City before finally landing in the Bay Area. Oubre will be joined by No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman.
Point guard Tyrese Haliburton fell into the Sacramento Kings' lap at No. 12 after the Iowa State product was projected to be a top-8 pick. LaMelo Ball will be playing in Charlotte, meaning we might get to see Lavar and Michael Jordan play 1-on-1 after all.
The Clippers traded Landry Shamet to Brooklyn in a three-team trade that puts shooting guard Luke Kennard in Los Angeles. Denver picked up RJ Hampton who could be the Nuggets' next Michael Porter Jr — a guy who was a former five-star recruit in high school and might be the steal of the draft.
But perhaps the biggest winner in this thrilling and unpredictable NBA week so far are the Philadelphia 76ers. No, they didn't get James Harden. But president of basketball operations Daryl Morey showed his worth Wednesday with these two moves:
Morey cleared Al Horford's atrocious contract while adding a veteran 3-and-D wing in Danny Green, later adding an elite shooter in Seth Curry, a career 44% marksman. Surrounding Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid with perimeter threats is a recipe for success in an Eastern Conference that is rapidly improving.
Hell, even the Knicks took a step forward by drafting athletic and electric forward Obi Toppin, a Brooklyn Native. That was followed by shedding some salaries to clear up $40 million in cap space:
The Knicks declined team option on Bobby Portis ($15.7M) and waived Taj Gibson ($10.29M) and Elfrid Payton ($8M), s… https://t.co/zV704ACxkP— Shams Charania (@Shams Charania) 1605809488.0
Cap space means potential free agents, and there's a couple New York should be targeting.
The Knicks have money to spend and there's players looking to get paid. This could end well for both parties involved, and Knicks fans might have something to look forward to after years of being a league laughing stock.
Celtics forward Gordon Hayward opted out of his $34 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent. You might think he's dumb for leaving that money on the table, and he might be, but Hayward is looking for a long-term contract, hence why his time in Boston ended. Hayward would give New York an effective playmaker, efficient scorer and veteran presence. He should be their second free agent aspiration, however.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, at just 26 years of age, is an UFA and is looking for a bag, he said so himself (:40 mark):
Episode 25 is live with @fredvanvleet. Really great interview. Here’s Fred on what he’s expecting this off-season.… https://t.co/WldtraKgvK— TheOldMan&TheThree (@TheOldMan&TheThree) 1605119016.0
VanVleet and Hayward could bring the Knicks back to relevancy and maybe, just maybe, to the playoffs.
Other notable free agents who could be on new rosters soon include:
-Serge Ibaka (UFA)
-Rajon Rondo (UFA)
-Dwight Howard (UFA)
-Demarcus Cousins (UFA)
-Danilo Gallinari (UFA)
-Avery Bradley (UFA)
-Brandon Ingram (RFA)
There's many more free agents than those listed above which is why these next couple days are going to be fun.
Wes Matthews and reigning sixth man of the year, Montrezl Harrell, are expected to sign with the Lakers. Bradley opted out of his deal with LAL as he's looking for a longer deal, and he might get it, but it might not be with the Lakers, as the Warriors will try to lure the defensive specialist to NorCal.
New Orleans will presumably offer Ingram the max money he can earn after his first All-Star selection last season. Joe Harris has reportedly gotten his payday from the Nets with a 4 year, $75 million contract.
The Hawks, like the Knicks, have a bunch of money to spend and could throw some to Rondo who's coming off an incredible championship run with the Lakers. The Clippers will also be in the hunt for the veteran point guard, per reports.
Friday's free agency opening could make for some major power shifts and headlines that would cap off one of the most memorable NBA off seasons in undeniably the most memorable year in recent history.
The NBA offseason is off to a sizzling start, and we're only three days into it.
With the shortened offseason the NBA Draft is tonight, and free agency begins Friday. But the biggest move has yet to be made, and it could happen at any moment.
James Harden has openly requested a trade from Houston, and per reports, he wants to play in Brooklyn with his former teammate Kevin Durant and point guard Kyrie Irving. Harden's backcourt partner Russell Westbrook wants out, too.
Sources: After turning down an extension offer to become the first $50M a year player in league history, James Hard… https://t.co/rvlsr2NhTr— Adrian Wojnarowski (@Adrian Wojnarowski) 1605577569.0
Any trade offer coming from the Nets would, at the very least, include Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and a slew of picks. It's not that easy, though.
ESPN is now reporting that Houston is feeling no pressure in moving its superstars, but that doesn't mean they've stopped fielding calls for The Beard.
So, what if I told you the Sixers can offer a better deal for Harden than the Nets?
Former Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is running the show in Philly now, and he's looking to reunite with his All-NBA shooting guard. And if you're current Rockets GM Rafael Stone, you want to get the best possible return for your franchise, regardless of where you send Harden. That's also why you don't want to rush this process, because you're in the driver's seat. Not Harden and not any of the teams desperate to acquire the 2017-18 MVP.
Moreover, seeing the return the Thunder got in the Chris Paul trade from the Pelicans in the Jrue Holiday package only increases the absurd return Houston can get for a top-10 player.
What Can Philly trade for The Beard?
The Sixers have two of the top 20 players in the NBA in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is one of the best two-way players in the game, coming off a 2019-20 campaign in which he averaged 23 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a contest. He's also a two-time All-Defensive selection.
Simmons is fresh off his first All-Defensive team selection and logged 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and eight assists per game. He's only 24 and Embiid is just 26. But only one can remain in a pursuit of Harden, and if I'm Daryl Morey, I volunteer Simmons as tribute.
Pairing an elite scorer like Harden with Embiid AND Simmons would be a dream come true for Philly. But that's the catch — it's just a dream.
If Philadelphia is able to somehow turn it into reality though, the Harden + Embiid combo has the makings of a top-notch duo — one that can compete with KD and Kyrie in Brooklyn, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in Boston, and the new look Bucks in Milwaukee.
For the Rockets, an exchange in which they get Simmons back is a major win that could fast-forward a rebuild, assuming they move Westbrook, too.
In order to make this trade work, however, the Sixers need to dump one of the horrific contracts they have.
Backup center Al Horford is set to make $27 million annually over each of the next three seasons, and forward Tobis Harris will earn $33 million, $36 million, $38 million and $41 million over the next four seasons. YIKES.
There's no way in hell Houston asks for Harris in the deal, but Horford's contract is feasible, and it would give the team a starting center, like, a real one.
Here's my proposal:
The trade machine doesn't allow this deal to be processed because Robert Covington is still on Houston's roster (he's being traded to Portland). But in this move, the Rockets get a two-way All-Star in Simmons, a couple of young guards with plenty of potential, and to seal the deal: draft picks.
Philly has five picks in the 2020 draft alone, followed by a 2021 second-rounder and a 2023 second-rounder which will be the most favorable one of three teams': Atlanta, Charlotte and Brooklyn.
The Nets, in addition to LeVert and Dinwiddie, have two picks in Wednesday's draft and four second-round picks in 2021. So it all comes down to what each team is willing to offer, how desperate they are and most importantly, if the Rockets like the return.
In this case, if the Sixers are comfortable and willing to dispatch from Simmons, their 2016 No. 1 overall pick, Houston should seriously consider pulling the trigger. We'll see if Stone and company are feeling frisky ahead of the draft.