The Washington Wizards entered the 2020-21 season with high expectations. After finishing the 2019-20 season as the best team in the Eastern Conference to miss the playoffs, Washington decided to go further in on making the playoffs. With the aid of the new play-in format, the Wizards remained competitive and made it into the postseason as the eight-seed.
Despite the late surge and barely meeting expectations, Beal is mulling his future in Washington prior, according to Shams Charania. The Wizards aren’t going to be able to compete at a championship level anytime soon, and Beal is at the peak of his prime. With one more year left on his deal before his player option for 2022-23, now is the best time for the Wizards to trade Beal while his value is extremely high and for interested teams to give Beal a full season to show that he should extend with them.
Beal should have a lot of agency in his next team since he could become a free agent in 2022. It should be noted that while Beal never became supermax eligible early, he becomes eligible to sign it in the 2022 offseason since he will have ten years of service on his belt. A trade would allow him to maximize his earnings since opting out in 2022 and re-sign with his new team to a five-year deal projected at $235 million. He would be limited to $174.3 million over four years if he signs with a new team via free agency.
Almost every team can use Beal but very few have the assets to get a deal done or a team good enough to call a contender after acquiring him. Here are the teams that fit both criteria.
Although the Heat will not get a chance to pursue Giannis Antetokounmpo, they are still focused on acquiring an All-Star to pair with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
Acquiring Beal should push Miami back into the mix among the East’s elite. The Heat are projected to generate close to $27 million in cap space this offseason, which won’t be enough to absorb Beal’s $33.7 million salary. The Heat’s front office wisely hedged against cap space by giving Goran Dragic ($19.4 million) and Andre Iguodala ($15 million) team options. Miami can exercise their team options and use them to match salaries in a trade for Beal since they don’t have any other realistic way of doing so.
The Heat’s potential offer for Beal looked better last offseason after Tyler Herro’s performance in the bubble. Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn are now restricted free agents, complicating their inclusion in a potential sign-and-trade. Miami can also include Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, and their 2028 first-round pick once the 2021-22 league year starts.
Denver may have the most valuable asset in a potential Beal package in Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. is entering the last year of his rookie-scale contract, and he could command a maximum contract. The Nuggets, recently having acquired Aaron Gordon, are going to be in the luxury tax for years to come starting no later than in 2022-23. Beal’s maximum salary will be 10 percent more expensive than Porter Jr.’s, which would exponentially increase Denver’s luxury tax bill.
If the Nuggets need to include draft compensation, they could include their 2021 pick as well as a conditional 2027 or 2028 first-rounder. After that, they can offer several of their young players such as Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji as additional sweeteners. The extra first-rounder and larger pool of young players to choose from could give the Nuggets an advantage over the Heat, especially if the Wizards value Porter more than Herro.
One hang-up for the Nuggets is matching salaries for Beal. Trading for Beal made more sense when they had Gary Harris to match salaries with. To make things even more complicated, Will Barton and JaMychal Green both declined to exercise their player options, so Denver is very short on tradeable salaries. They could try to include Paul Millsap in a sign-and-trade with a big first-year salary and two non-guaranteed years, but Base Year Compensation will complicate that and the Wizards might not be interested in paying Millsap so much money even for just one year.
The Grizzlies might not sound like an appealing destination, but their young core of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. could become a contender with Beal in time. Assuming Morant and Jackson Jr. are off the table, they could put together a package that includes Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, Grayson Allen, De’Anthony Melton, and Desmond Bane. Aside from having all their own first-round picks, they could also include a future Jazz first-round pick that will likely convey in 2022 and the Warriors 2024 first-round pick.
Morant just had a ridiculous postseason debut that has shown the potential of not only being one of the best point guards in the league soon, but one of the best players once he hits his prime. The Grizzlies currently have a deep rotation at shooting guard and could look to capitalize on their potential for a sure star such as Beal. He and Morant together would make the Grizzlies dangerous now and potentially a contender in several years.
Memphis could decline the team option of Justise Winslow and generate close to $25 million in cap space, which could allow them to acquire Beal without sending back equal salaries. They could alternatively roll over their cap space to 2022 and hope Beal reaches free agency then. They’d be able to generate close to maximum cap space to sign Beal while also keeping Morant, Jackson Jr., Clarke, Brooks, Melton, Bane, and all their picks.
New Orleans Pelicans
While New Orleans might not have the best prospects to offer in a trade, they have the second-most draft assets to offer after the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Pelicans have tried to both accumulate assets while trying to compete now. They have two All-Stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram but most of the roster’s depth is full of questionable fits. New Orleans could choose to further lean in towards competing and cash out on some more of the assets they got in exchange for Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday for Beal. While they may not be a contender immediately, a core consisting of Williamson, Beal, and Ingram could eventually become one with the right players put around them.
The Pelicans have all of their own first-round picks. They have the rights to the Lakers’ 2022 first-rounder and either their 2024 or 2025 first-rounder. They also now have the Bucks’ unprotected 2025 and 2027 first-round picks. If the Wizards are prioritizing a haul of draft picks over players, this could be the best offer from a team that Beal could be interested in re-signing with.
As for players, the Pelicans have salary filler in the form of Eric Bledsoe or Steven Adams. They can further match salaries by including Jaxson Hayes and one of Kira Lewis or Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The combination of draft picks and young players should make a very appealing offer to Washington. If the Wizards want some more established talent, the Pelicans could also sign-and-trade Lonzo Ball or Josh Hart to Washington. The Wizards can’t realistically sign either player in free agency, so this could be their path to acquire one of those players if they’re interested.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors can put together a very strong offer for Beal that includes Andrew Wiggins as salary filler, as well as James Wiseman and the 7th and 14th overall picks in the 2021 draft. They could also offer future first-round picks way out in 2026 (conditionally) and 2028 if they need to get more aggressive.
Beal would replace a lot of the scoring that they lost from Kevin Durant. He would also take a lot of attention off of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, which will be vital for the Warriors to get back to being an elite offense again. The Warriors have a limited window with Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green in their early thirties. If the Warriors are serious about competing for a championship with this group, they’ll have to put their chips on the table if a player like Beal or Damian Lillard becomes available.
Washington gets several immediate young players in Wiseman and the two 2021 picks as well as future draft equity. This trade would help the team get a jumpstart on a rebuild, which is where a Beal trade could lead them to. Wiggins’ contract expires in 2023 at the same time as Russell Westbrook’s, which could allow Washington to have maximum cap space that offseason. By then, they could have developed some of their young players and be ready to build a competitive team.
Philadelphia’s offer of Ben Simmons and assets for James Harden can also be applied for Beal. If they were to trade Simmons for someone, Beal makes a lot of sense and could be a better fit next to Embiid.
Simmons for Beal straight-up works in terms of salary matching. They could also include Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, and first-round picks in 2021, 2023, and 2028. It’s unlikely that the Sixers could get Beal by offering Tobias Harris, even if they include all those other assets mentioned earlier. The Wizards just need to decide if Simmons is the type of player they want to build around over some of the others that will be made available to them.
A Simmons-Westbrook pairing could be problematic offsensively, so Washington may want to find a trade for Westbrook if they get Simmons. Alternatively, they could reroute Simmons to an interested third team to extract even more value. The Wizards might not be very good after trading Beal so they could opt for a rebuild and extract even more draft equity from a third team. They would also save a lot more money since they wouldn’t have to pay Simmons his remaining $147 million.