Wizards

It’s Now or Never for Beal, Wizards

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A 2-6 record through eight games is laughable in most cases. This is no different for the 2020-2021 Washington Wizards.

Bradley Beal is putting up MVP numbers. The NBA’s scoring leader through eight games has averaged 34.5 points per contest, dropping at least 27 in each game. On Wednesday night, he poured in a career-high 60 points (20-35 FG, 7-10 3PT) against the Philadelphia 76ers.

 

But instead of celebrating his accomplishment, Beal was distressed after another Wizards loss. His 60 points tied Gilbert Arenas’ 2006 franchise record, but Washington’s faulty defense resulted in a 141-136 loss to Philadelphia.

“I just want to win,” Beal told reporters after the game. “Sometimes you might be able to score 40, 50, 60, whatever the case may be, but I just want to win, whatever that looks like.”

After missing the playoffs the last two years, the Wizards cannot afford another losing season if they hope to keep their star shooting guard in Washington for the long haul.

As Beal’s frustrations snowball, his ninth season in DC might be his last if the Wizards keep losing.

Beal Could Opt Out in 2022

Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension in 2019, but his player option allows him to opt out and become a free agent following the 2021-22 season.

The 27-year-old breakout superstar is entering his prime. Beal willingly embraces a leadership role and frequently expresses loyalty and gratitude to the Wizards organization.

The two-time All-Star has been a class act, community leader and franchise cornerstone.

But after nearly a decade in Washington, Beal and the Wizards have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The last time Washington actually won two playoff series was when the Bullets faced the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1979 NBA Finals.

The Wizards’ 2-6 start this season raises the concern they are on pace to miss the playoffs for a third straight year. That’s not what Beal signed up for.

Beal has become increasingly frustrated with the Wizards’ cycles of stagnancy and decline. As he looks towards his future, a trade could become imminent.

Teams seeking additional firepower know an elite scorer and two-way playmaker like Beal could be the difference between a playoff berth and a title run.

Second-year General Manager Tommy Sheppard is focused on Washington’s future. He is not shy about trading away big names.

Wizards Rebranding has Begun

Sheppard expressed disappointment after a controversial viral video of John Wall surfaced in the offseason. Less than a month later, Washington traded Wall to Houston for Russell Westbrook.

With Wall healthy for the first time since his 2019 Achilles injury, Beal was emotional following the departure of his longtime friend. Nevertheless, he and the Wizards’ fanbase have embraced Westbrook with open arms.

Westbrook is a nightly triple-double threat with a relentlessly competitive mindset. Pairing Beal with the former MVP and nine-time All-Star makes sense on paper. Beal credits Westbrook with improving the culture and energy of the team.

Westbrook quickly stepped into a leadership role, averaging 20.5 points, 11.8 assists and 10.7 rebounds through his first six games while facilitating career-high scoring marks from Beal and Thomas Bryant.

But with each loss, the optimism in Washington fades. Beal and Westbrook have stuffed the stat sheets, but the Wizards’ league-worst defense has allowed 122.9 points per game.

Beal is focused on winning, but his patience is wearing thin as the front office struggles to improve the team.

As The Lead’s Danny Fanaroff speculated, “anything short of a postseason berth this season will be considered a failure and likely push Beal out the door.”

If losing Beal seems inevitable, Sheppard and the Wizards will capitalize on his high trade value to acquire multiple draft picks and young players.

Trade rumors are nothing new for Beal. If Washington makes him available, a long line of suitors will be waiting. Contenders like the Nuggets, 76ers and Heat, as well as rising teams like the Mavericks and Knicks, would likely all make generous offers.

Trading away a beloved face of the franchise is never an easy decision. But keeping Beal in Washington at this stage of his career makes little sense for a struggling Wizards team heading towards a rebuild.

Beal’s 2020 All-Star Snub

Playing for a losing franchise also negatively impacts Beal on a personal level. Last season, he was snubbed from the All-Star game despite averaging career-highs in points (28.6) and assists (6.3) at the All-Star break.

Bradley Beal’s agent Mark Bartelstein rips Eastern Conference coaches for the all-star snub.

Beal felt disrespected by the All-Star snub. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, he raised his scoring average to 30.5 points by the end of the season, second-best in the NBA behind only James Harden.

In 19 total games since being snubbed, Beal is averaging 35.5 points while scoring over 50 in three of those contests.

Whether or not he remains the league’s scoring leader, Beal should return to All-Star status this season. Unfortunately, Washington’s poor record may continue to overshadow his individual accomplishments.

Fatigue Setting In

In addition to frustrations on the court, Beal has also been one of the NBA’s most outspoken players in response to America’s complex social justice issues.

Participating in historic D.C. protests last year and observing the political unrest over the last four years was mentally and emotionally taxing for any D.C. resident.

This is especially true for Beal, who has become a local social justice leader, and nearly a victim of the police brutality epidemic.

These responsibilities are bigger than basketball. Beal is just one of many NBA players fighting publicly for racial equality.

For all his hard work on and off the court, Beal deserves an opportunity to play for a winning franchise.

He has spent nine years contributing to an organization that unfortunately failed to set him up for success. If that doesn’t change this year, then it will be best for both parties to get a fresh start.

Hope isn’t lost for the Wizards. They are 2-2 since the return of starting forward Rui Hachimura. They narrowly lost on Wednesday against the first-place 76ers, thus barely missing a three-game winning streak.

But Washington’s abysmal defense is causing too many losses. Depending on their midseason progress, Beal may even request a trade.

Sheppard will soon receive many offers from teams hungry for an elite scorer and an immediate shot at a championship. When the right offer comes, don’t be surprised if Sheppard pulls the trigger.

Follow us on Twitter @WizardsLead for the latest Wizards news and insight. 

About Jon Jacobson

NBA Content Writer and Multimedia Producer. Twitter: @Jon_NBA

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