Why the Wizards should 'free Bradley Beal'
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.