The Wizards can breathe easy. For now, at least.
Washington and star guard Bradley Beal have agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $72 million, with a player option for the second year. Essentially, Beal will push off his free agency, which was scheduled for 2021, until 2022 when he can opt out and hit the market. The contract was first reported by ESPN.
The deal likely will take Beal off the trade market and gives Washington the one thing it was sorely lacking as it approached a Monday deadline for a Beal extension: time.
The Wizards are a mess. Beal has been clear that he wants to remain with the team, but the franchise has not yet established much of a direction. That scared off Beal from an extensive commitment to Washington, which was prepared to sign Beal for three years and $111 million. But the two-year deal allowed for a compromise in which the Wizards can show Beal some progress before he signs on long-term.
It will take some arduous cleanup and a bit of luck to get there. One league executive told Heavy.com recently that, “If you’re in charge of that team, you have to be willing to tank this year.”
The Wizards are in the first year of a four-year, $170 million contract they doled out to John Wall in 2017, a deal that looks like a major albatross considering that Wall is recovering from an Achilles’ tendon injury and is unlikely to play at all this year.
Getting Wall healthy and back on the floor is Job 1 for the Wizards. That was a factor in Beal giving Washington more time—it hardly seemed fair to put the Wizards under the gun of a trade demand while Wall was rehabbing.
Much Work Needed on Wizards Roster
But the roster is in rough shape outside of Wall’s recovery and that is Beal’s bigger concern. It’s a team woefully short on assets.
The Wizards had been to the playoffs in four of the past five years before last season and two key players for those teams—Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre (who arrived in 2015)—were shipped out last year.
All three players the Wizards got back in those trades (Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, Trevor Ariza) are gone now and the only asset the Wizards have remaining from those deals is three future second-round picks.
The Wizards are banking on quick development from their two most recent draft picks, Rui Hachimura, who was the ninth pick this year, and Troy Brown, the 15th pick last season who appeared in 52 games last season.
Hachimura has averaged 11.0 points on 41.4 percent shooting in three preseason games. Brown has missed training camp and the preseason with a calf injury.
Washington took some gambles on young players in the offseason, giving center Thomas Bryant a three-year, $25 million contract and acquiring 26-year-old big man Davis Bertans in a trade from the Spurs. They’ll likely give opportunities, too, to Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Admiral Schofield, who are all 22 or younger.
Still, Beal did not want to leave and Washington was never seriously considering trading him. It’s not an entirely firmed-up partnership, not with the team so shaky and Beal eager to play for a winner. But this new deal gives Washington time to right its wobbly ship before a serious trade consideration comes into play.