It’s official: the Wizards and Bradley Beal to agreed to terms for a “max contract” worth approximately $130 million over five years. They’ll be paying around $26 million per year to a shooting guard who played in a career low 55 games last season, and has never played more than 73 games in a season.
With his litany of of injuries since he’s entered the NBA, Beal himself admitted a few months ago that he could be facing a minutes cap for the rest of this career. Yet, the Wizards are going to pay him more than twice as much money per year than league MVP Stephen Curry makes (and 50% more than “franchise player” John Wall makes… a dynamic worth keeping an eye on in the future).
I’ll be among the first to lambaste Ernie Grunfeld for any one of the plethora of stupid moves he’s made, or will continue to make as long as Ted Leonsis shamefully and gutlessly employs him. Giving Beal this absurd amount of money brings up a lot bad memories, like handing out stupid money to Gilbert Arenas (who only had one good knee at the time) or Andray Blatche (who wasn’t due up for an extension yet).
But this move, for better or for worse, the Wizards had to make. They really didn’t have any other choice.
We expected a monstrous breakout season from Beal in 2015-2016, given the facts that he was outstanding in the Wizards 2015 playoff run, and that he was entering a contract year. Instead, he dealt with even more injuries than we’ve already become accustomed to, and his 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game basically hovered right around his career averages.
At the same time, you can’t just let Beal walk away for nothing, simply in the name of salary cap flexibility. Beal just turned 23 years old. He’s a gifted shooter in an NBA era where shooters are more valued than ever. Beal and Wall are the only two players you can trust on this team to score a bucket when it counts most. The two of them also compliment each other very nicely, and could/should flourish as a backcourt for at least the next five years, at minimum.
But more importantly: what were the Wizards supposed to do instead of signing Bradley Beal?
Wizards fans, by now, should realize that this franchise is going to have a very tough time attracting marquee free agents to come here, even with a duo like Beal and Wall potentially in place. They’re not exactly lining up to take Washington’s money. In fact, most of then aren’t even lining up to take the money of any of the teams trying to lure them away from their 2015 squads. LeBron James might’ve opted out his contract with Clevealnd, but it’s a 99.99% done deal that he’s resigning with the Cavaliers. Kevin Durant is reportedly 90% sure he’s staying in Oklahoma City, even as he entertains meetings with other teams (which, again, don’t include the Wizards). Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, DeMar DeRozan, Nicolas Batum, and Mike Conley all re-upped with their respective teams.
Al Horford is the only “building block”-type player who looks like he’ll probably switch teams, but he’s got at least a half dozen teams chasing him, two of which include Golden State (the team that just finished with the best regular season record in NBA history) and Oklahoma City (wouldn’t Horford over Serge Ibaka haven been enough to help the Thunder upset the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals?). I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Horford — who the Wizards reportedly covet — gives Washington the “KD stiff arm,” not even bothering to meet with them either.
At least Beal wanted to stay in DC (for the max), and at least the Wizards had the money and the right of first refusal (since Beal was a restricted free agent) to keep him here. In other words: they could count on Beal to sign here. There’s basically nobody else they could say the same thing about.
Letting Beal walk away would’ve further crippled an organization under fire after a very disappointing season last year.
If the Wizards were smart — and with Grunfeld running the team, that’s a colossal “IF” — they would spend their extra cap space by going “dumpster diving” for younger role players like Miles Plumlee in Milwaukee or Allen Crabbe in Portland, and overspending on them to lure them away from their current squads (both are restricted free agents). Those are the types of guys who can provide the defense, energy, and shooting that this team so badly needs an infusion of.
But none of those moves would’ve made a difference without having Beal in place. Wall and Beal remain the foundation for however this team is going to be built.
And that’s why the Wizards had to bring him back, max contract or not.