Beal’s New Deal Gridlocks Wizards’ Bank of Hope


Philosopher George Santayana famously proclaimed that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” 

Somehow, the Washington Wizards doomed themselves.


Clearly, GM Tommy Sheppard may have skipped a history class or two. This offseason, Wizards’ star Bradley Beal signed the second-richest contract in NBA history:

Talk about being in elite company.

Except, Nikola Jokic is a two-time MVP winner. Beal has never peaked past one third-team All-NBA appearance. Jokic has been the best player on a title contender. With Beal as the franchise face, Washington has never had a season above .500. Jokic is still in the middle of his prime, but Beal may have already peaked.

So clearly, there’s a disparity between the value of both deals. 

Washington has been done the road of handing the NBA’s winner of “Most Atrocious Contract in the League” before. Wizards fans have seen it all, from John Wall and Gilbert Arenas to the albatross Ian Mahinmi contract in the summer of 2016.

But Beal’s recent extension could be catastrophic for Washington. In fact, there’s almost no upside to be found.

Beal’s New Contract By The Numbers

The Wizards broke the bank and then some to bring back Bradley Beal:

Beal re-signed with Washington for five years and $251 million. Additionally, Beal’s new contract includes both a no-trade clause and a 15% trade kicker.

From a monetary perspective, Beal’s contract ranks as one of the worst in the league.

Beal will be making north of $50 million for the last three years of the extension. This includes almost $54 million guaranteed in 2026 and $57 million in 2027. The new deal takes him to his age-33 season, when superstars typically decline relative to their prime production.

The Wizards all but locked themselves into max money for, at best, a fringe All-NBA third team. 

Additionally, Beal’s no-trade clause and trade kicker all but kills the Wizards’ leverage moving forward.

Trade clauses are a rarity in the league. Only ten players in NBA history have ever signed a contract with a no-trade clause. Beal ranks as the lowest in terms of his career performance.

Beal is the only active player in the league with a no-trade clause.

Now, Washington is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, Beal’s deal ranks as a negative-value contract with little upside remaining. On the other hand, Beal has all the leverage in the world to choose his next destination.

Because of Beal’s trade kicker, the receiving team that could acquire him needs to have enough cap space to pay him and be a preferred team he wants to play for.

In short, the Wizards are banking on Beal outperforming his contract (unlikely) as he ages into his mid-thirties (very unlikely).

Beal’s Productive but Limited Ceiling

Washington is hoping Beal can return to his All-NBA self this upcoming season. That, however, is all but a certainty.

Compared to his 2021 All-NBA season, Beal was subpar this past year:

Bradley Beal Season Stats (2021 versus 2022)

  • 31.3 PPG → 23.2 PPG (8.1 PPG decline)
  • 49% FG → 45% FG (4% decline)
  • 35% 3FG → 30% 3FG (5% decline)
  • 7.7 free throws attempted → 5.1 free throws attempted (2.6 attempt decline)

Beal’s decline in volume, efficiency and scoring should be a cause for concern for Washington. Beal is a defensive liability, so his value lies in his production on offense. Typically, shooting guards taking fewer free throws and becoming more inefficient are signs of regression.

Beal has also missed 155 games in his career. For the third-straight season, he has missed 12 or more games. This includes this past season when Beal missed 42 games.

To be fair, Beal’s lengthy absence means he’ll be healthy and fresh for the beginning of this season. And at his best, Beal is a multi-leveled scorer who averaged a career-high 6.6 assists in 2022. If healthy, there’s a slight chance Beal can be a definite All-Star and even a fringe All-NBA third team candidate.

But that’s a lot of wishful thinking. Since John Wall’s career took a downturn in 2018 due to injuries, it’s been all downhill for Washington under Beal’s leadership.

The Wizards have had four-straight seasons below .500. Washington has one playoff win with Beal as the go-to superstar. In the regular season, Washington hasn’t finished higher than eighth in the Eastern Conference. 

Even if Beal is healthy and productive, Washington might still be on the outside looking in for playoff contention.

What’s Next for Washington?

Entering this season, the Wizards will be facing an uphill battle.

Boston and Milwaukee are the clear favorites in the East. Philadelphia retooled its roster with versatile role players. Miami will still be in the mix. Cleveland and Chicago both dealt with injuries and still outperformed expectations last season. New York and Atlanta are going all-in on the playoffs based on their respective offseasons. 

In an absolute best-case scenario, Washington is no better than the sixth seed in the East. But more likely, the Wizards could be out of the postseason picture entirely.

At the end of the day, there’s a limited ceiling when Beal is the best player on a franchise. He’s a 20-point-per-game scorer that’s often inefficient on offense and unreliable on defense.

Now, to be fair to Beal, he has expressed his desire to be a Wizard forever. Additionally, his love for Washington itself is rare in today’s NBA.

However, Beal’s new contract will handicap the franchise moving forward whether he stays or wants out.

After the franchise experienced the devastating effects of the Wall extension, you would think they would’ve learned their lesson. Instead, Washington could be repeating history with Beal’s extension.

And again, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” The Wizards could be reaching their doomsday with Bradley Beal’s new contract.

About Dominic Chiappone

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