It feels the perfect way to describe the NBA is free market capitalism – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Odd considering if American sports leagues were political parties the NBA would without a doubt be the Democrats.
It is a loose translation, but many players rather than sticking with their team and riding out the hopeful rebuild, tend to look elsewhere at a big market or an already successful team. Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving to name a few of the game’s biggest names… even LeBron James and Kevin Durant took the objective ‘easy way out’.
Others, like Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, seem set on trying their best to make it work with their respective franchises. The latter signed an extension in 2019 which keeps him at the Washington Wizards until the end of the 2021-22 season, with a player option for 2022-23.
Money shows value, and value shows care, and care gives Beal comfort. Comfort he deserves, particularly this last season. Up until the NBA’s suspension Beal ranked second in the league in scoring with 30.5 points a game, jumping 4.9 points from the previous year, and 7.9 over two years. He put up two 50-point games and managed 12 40-point games all up, yet oddly did not make the All-Star team which is simply criminal.
But rumours as they always do have swirled, and often when there is smoke there is fire. The Brooklyn Nets have led the charge, stating they have internally discussed potential trade packages to land Beal. The shooting guard’s agent Mark Bartelstein strongly rebuffed such claims, and said Beal’s deal signed last season proves he wants to remain in Washington, and vice-versa.
Is staying put a good move for him? Hardly, if he wants to win. The Wizards have been poor in the performance column for the good part of 30 years. Aside from playoff trips in 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018, where Beal was on the team, the Wizards have made the postseason just five other times since 1989. Winning is certainly not in their DNA.
Who do they give up? Spender Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert
We will start off with the obvious – the Nets are keen, and even if Beal is not himself, to entertain such a move in his head would create a fair bit of excitement. I am just a casual Nets fan, and this excites me.
The Nets already have a core to contend for a championship with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on board, so adding Beal to the mix undoubtedly creates the game’s best big three right now, and offers the Nets variation in what their stars can offer on both ends.
Funnily enough one thing propelling Brooklyn forward could well be a snag in Beal’s integration into the roster. Irving’s reputation as a good teammate has been hit, and whether he would be happy palming off part of the scoring load to Beal would be easier said than done. Whether Beal is happy to diminish his duties in another curious question.
That however is painting Irving in a very negative light, who for the first time in his career is on a team by choice in Brooklyn. My guess is he is a lot happier there.
Heading to Washington are Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, who spread over the first three positions, and were red-hot offensively averaging 20.6 and 17.7 points respectively in the 2019-20 season, improving by 3.8 and four points respectively. Both offer similar styles to Irving and Beal as well as the pedigree to be starters, so unloading them to a team where they can be better utilised makes sense.
However LeVert is a free agent this summer so incorporating him in the deal aside from a sign and trade would be near impossible.
Who do they give up? Joel Embiid
My fandom for the 76ers does not stretch too far, but I would personally love to see this move happen. More for the sake of Ben Simmons’ career as much as the success of the team.
Philly have struggled to fulfill their potential over the last two seasons with stars Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, who both need the ball in hand to make any impact. The team’s winning percentage in the regular season and playoffs has continued to drop since 2018. It would not be out of the question for the franchise to (minorly) blow things up.
The huge upside of Simmons coming out of college as the ‘next Magic Johnson’, an all-round playmaking profile he boasts with just the shooting needing an improvement, makes him the one to stay and Embiid the one to go. Embiid is not so unique that his talent cannot be reproduced by other centres, and his horrid injury past also makes him a risky asset to hold on to in comparison.
Then again would the franchise do away with the one player who suits the city’s personality? Hard to imagine.
Place Beal in that situation, someone who can spot up from anywhere next to a reliable facilitator, you are getting a seriously good duo. Such a move would also give Al Horford more ‘facetime’ in the paint, and justify his absurd contract.
Portland Trail Blazers
Who do they give up? CJ McCollum
A slightly different flavour here – how about Beal and his agent aid a fellow star also in need of help on a lower market team? Damian Lillard is one of the best players in today’s game and has emerged as a genuine leader in helping the Blazers stay relevant, for what feels like too long now. Since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, Lillard has been looking for his partner in crime who can also crack All-NBA teams.
CJ McCollum has partially filled that void in the backcourt, but a play at Beal would be a massive upgrade at the two guard and create a duo capable of making the Western Conference finals, and possibly go further. The same goes for Beal, who would have a teammate with as much swagger, confidence and even more production.
For the Wizards in return they would get an All-Star calibre shooting guard able to pour in 20 points on any given night, and make for a handy contributor alongside John Wall when he returns from injury. Aside from McCollum though, the Blazers have little to offer the Wizards, and would need to beef up the deal with picks – assets that have inflated value.
Who do they give up? Jamal Murray and Gary Harris
Like the Trail Blazers, this would immediately elevate the Nuggets into contention with the Lakers and Clippers to win the Western crown. The Nuggets also have an array of assets they can dangle in front of Washington.
The franchise has its perennial All-Star in big-man Nikola Jokić who year after year is improving every element of his game, most notably on the offensive end. The Joker has a good supporting cast around him, with guard Jamal Murray leading the way. Beal’s production far exceeds Murray’s in every way, and he offers the team another top-15 talent. It would also offer Beal a great group of teammates and coach who together, based on their recent trajectory, can make the NBA finals.
The Wizards would also benefit if they can snag Murray along with someone like Gary Harris or a first rounder, at the least. Now Harris will be very tough to unload. Two years ago at the age of 23, he was one of three players in the league averaging 17 or more points. Now, he has plummeted with big drops in scoring and field goal percentage. But the Wizards may very well have the confidence they can re-invigorate him.
Sports writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have a strong passion for a range of codes, including the NBA, NFL, Soccer, Rugby and more.