After missing the playoffs, the Washington Wizards are already setting their sights on NBA free agency and how to retain their top free agent, Bradley Beal. Beal, and teammate John Wall, have made for a lethal backcourt duo when on the floor together in Washington. However, susceptible bench depth and coaching has diminished any chance that the Wizards have had of making a playoff run. Now, with a new head coach signed, Washington has turned their attention to keeping their backcourt duo intact.
Recently, Beal discussed his future with the Washington Post and was clear about his expectations for this offseason.
“I feel like I’m a max player and that’s what I’m looking for. If Washington can’t meet that requirement then I may be thinking elsewhere. I’m pretty sure that they probably won’t [let me go]. At the end of the day, that’s where I want to be. I think a deal will probably get done but you just never know.”
According to the Washington Post, Beal will not have to look elsewhere like he thought could have become a possibility.
“The Wizards are expected to offer Beal a five-year deal for the maximum amount allowed under the salary cap as soon as the free agent negotiating period kicks off on July 1, according to people with knowledge of the situation.”
Like nearly every other team in the league, the Wizards will have a large chunk of cap space this summer. This space, due to a massive increase in the salary cap, will benefit teams that would be near the limit in previous years. Because of this, Washington will have to be extra careful with Beal as other teams will certainly be interested as well.
New @ HP: Everyone gets a max contract — and yes, that includes Bradley Beal https://t.co/ooJSKP3xOb
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 25, 2016
Given last season’s disappointment, many fans will question Beal as a max contract player. After finishing with the No. 5 seed the season before, Washington fell of a cliff under Randy Wittman in 2016, finishing with only 41 wins. The disparity between seasons revolved around Beal’s health, as he went through another injury-riddled year. He appeared in only 55 games and only started 35 contests. After another season highlighted by missed time, Beal has yet to log more than 73 games in his brief NBA career, a questionable trend for the 22-year-old shooting guard.
However, when he played, Beal reminded fans why he is still so highly coveted. In the 55 games he played in, he produced better numbers than ever. He tallied 20.2 points and 3.4 assists per 36 minutes in his most efficient shooting season, according to Basketball-Reference. His true shooting mark of 54.7 percent was easily the highest of his career, and this improvement was helped by a career-high 48.1 percent two-point field goal percentage.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 27, 2016
It is clear that Washington is hoping Beal will extend this production over a full season. Looking back, the 2015 NBA Playoffs are another example of just how dominant Beal can be when fully healthy and fully engaged on the task at hand. In these 10 games, Beal demonstrated his defensive ability, which seems to sway on most nights. Additionally, Beal produced a 29.5 percent free throw rate, and 25.0 percent of his shots came within three feet of the basket according to Basketball-Reference. This spurt showed that Beal was able to get to the rim and to the free throw line, an important skill for him to keep defenders honest.
Having seen that type of production, there is no question why the Wizards are looking to re-sign Beal. However, even after retaining him, concerns will still surround Beal and Washington as a whole. After retaining Beal, the Wizards will have to shore up their depth off the bench with notable role players like Nene and Jared Dudley likely leaving.
[Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images]