Wizards owner Ted Leonsis didn't want to commit a five-year maximum-salary contract to James Harden, so the team turned down an offer of Harden for Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post. One Wizards official, who disputes that such a proposal was ever on the table, said the Thunder were also seeking an established player of the caliber the Wizards don't possess, Lee adds.
The Thunder reportedly had interest in trading up to take Beal right before the draft, but didn't want to part with Harden. Lee notes that the proposal including Harden was made two months after the draft, when the Wizards made Beal the third overall pick. An NBA executive pointed out to Lee that teams are much more reticent to give up recently drafted players than they are draft picks.
The revelation of this would-be deal surely isn't welcome news for Wizards fans, who've watched their team stumble to a 2-15 start. As Lee details, the Wizards would likely have become a taxpaying team if they had committed a max deal to Harden as the Rockets did after the Thunder traded him to Houston on the eve of the season. With stiffer tax penalties kicking in by 2014, it makes it easier to understand why Leonsis put the brakes on a Harden trade, but with John Wall's value seemingly declining each day he misses with a left patella injury, it's worth wondering if the team might have been better off committing to Harden and letting Wall walk as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2014.
Beal is off to a slow start, shooting just 34.9% in his first 17 NBA games, and Singleton, the 18th pick in 2011, is averaging just 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game this year, so the Thunder appear to be much better off with the package they got from the Rockets that's centered around Kevin Martin. I'd have to think there's some legitimacy to the statement by the Wizards executive who said the Thunder were looking for something more in a deal with Washington. And the Rockets are assuredly glad they wound up with Harden, who's averaging 24.7 points, 5.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game this year, all career highs.