WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal’s future is up for debate. The All-NBA candidate is playing out both sides publicly.
The Washington Wizards’ leading scorer just completed his seventh and most dominant NBA season. His current contract extends two more years. Beal made it clear he would be down with sticking around far longer.
“If I can, I would 100 percent die in that Wizards jersey,” Beal said during a podcast interview this season with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.
The shooting guard’s success – and mindset – might prevent the relationship from going the distance.
Beal was selected to a second consecutive All-Star appearance this season, one in which he became the first player in franchise history to average 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. An all-NBA selection might be on deck and with it, the possibility to sign a four-year, $194 million supermax extension this summer.
The staggering amount -- $48.5 million per season – seems like the obvious no brainer scenario. It’s not, Beal claims.
The Wizards’ 2018-19 season went off the rails and quickly. After dropping nine of its first 11 games, Washington finished 32-50, its most losses since the 2012-13 season, Beal’s rookie campaign.
Blame injuries, but even owner Ted Leonsis acknowledged he “didn’t like the way that we were playing” before the games lost number escalated. Leonsis offered that perspective shortly after the team announced the firing of team president Ernie Grunfeld after 16 seasons.
That’s one massive change. More are coming of all sizes. The Wizards are searching for a new general manager. Several members of the current roster enter free agency this summer, meaning the next front office leader could dramatically reshape the playing pieces.
With so many moving parts, Beal claims he won’t rush into any decisions should he become eligible for the supermax deal and the Wizards offer.
“I have to think about it first,” Beal said in the waning days of the season. “Obviously, that’s a lot of money, and I have a lot of money now, so money’s not the problem or the question. “I wanna be able to know that we’re going in the right direction in the future,” Beal said.
Beal signed a five-year, $127.1 million max contract in 2016 after completing his four-year, $18.6 rookie deal. Those numbers make ATM visits joyous occasions. It also offers options and helps with patience should the Wizards extend a supermax offer.
John Wall, the Wizards’ other All-Star guard, could miss the majority if not all of the 2019-20 season after undergoing surgery for a ruptured Achilles in February. Whether Wall returns next season or not, his four-year, $170 million supermax contract kicks in. Beal signing his supermax improves his financial world but it ensures the Wizards become salary cap-strapped once the deals overlap. That eventual reality would limit long-term planning earlier.
Will the new GM offer a creative roster-building solution? Does Wall return at his All-Star form or a rung or two below? What are the other changes and how do they mesh with the playing timeline for Beal as he turns 26 in June?
“Obviously, this is where I wanna be. Everybody knows that. Ted knows that. … And everybody in this organization knows it,” Beal said. “Obviously, if the situation comes, that’s a blessing in itself, but it’s not just an easy answer to make. Everybody will probably be like, ‘Yo! You’d be out of your mind!’ But when you’re thinking about your future and your career and the legacy that you wanna live, you wanna be a winner at the end of the day and do whatever it takes to do that.”
None of this means Beal, selected by the Wizards third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, would bolt.
“It’s beyond just what I know. I love this city. I embrace being here. I love the team. I love being able to be the face of an organization, alongside with John too,” Beal said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I hear that from other guys, too, and we see it all the time in the league.”
The decision, should the All-NBA nod occur, isn’t one-sided. The Wizards must offer the deal. Unless Tommy Sheppard, serving as the interim general manager, gets the gig, the new GM won’t have any emotional attachment to Beal. Choices become more black and white especially with all those greenbacks in play, and Beal’s trade value red-hot.
“[The] new GM could probably have a totally different agenda on his hands,” said Beal, who will be a sounding board for Leonsis this off-season. “But at the same time, I’m gonna keep the same mindset. This is where I wanna be, regardless of who comes in. If it’s offered to me, I’ll sit down with my family and my agent and try to figure it out.”
Despite the frustrating season, Beal kept his competitive spirit throughout. “He's always stayed the same leader that he was at the beginning of the year,” rookie Troy Brown Jr. said. “He's never changed. He's always been positive.”
Those positive vibes helped the Wizards find some steadier footing as the season progressed while Beal advanced his All-NBA candidacy. The organization’s future, even if ultimately bright, is uncertain for now. Speculation involving Beal wanting out when his current deal expires existed during the season. Maybe such thoughts, if accurate, fade with $194 million – unless money alone doesn’t equal happiness or the Wizards don’t make the supermax offer.
“It’s a chess game,” Beal said. “It’s just being smart with every move I make and trusting my gut and listening to my family and what they wanna do as well. And when the time comes, I’ll cross that bridge.”
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