In recent months, most of the star players who were expected to be traded during the NBA’s 2020/21 league year – either during the offseason or in-season – were indeed on the move. Chris Paul and Jrue Holiday were dealt early, followed a couple weeks later by Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Last week, James Harden and Victor Oladipo landed with new NBA teams.
After catching their breath following a flurry of blockbuster trades, fans and pundits figure to eventually ask the inevitable question: Who’s next?
After all, while we get the occasional lull between mega-deals, it’s always just a matter of time before another big-name player on an underachieving team hits the trade block, either because he wants to be moved or because his team recognizes it’s better off cashing in one of its top trade chips sooner rather than later.
While this year’s trade deadline is still over two months away, it’s worth considering which player might be the next one to fit that bill. There are a few contenders around the NBA, but at this point, no star player appear to be a likelier trade candidate than Bradley Beal.
The most important factor working against a Beal trade is the fact that the Wizards have repeatedly indicated – both privately and publicly – that they have no interest in moving the star guard. When they sent Wall and a first-round pick to Houston for Westbrook, the Wizards made the deal in the hopes of returning to the postseason and convincing Beal that the franchise was working its way back toward contention. Washington wants to build around Beal, not trade him.
But there are a number of factors working against the Wizards. For one, the club got off to a poor start this season, opening with a 3-8 record before having six consecutive games postponed due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols.
When the Wizards resume play – likely on Sunday – they’ll be looking to climb out of that early hole with a shorthanded roster, knowing they’ll have to cram a ton of makeup games into their schedule later in their season if they want to get close to playing a full 72-game slate.
A playoff spot is certainly possible, especially with the play-in format opening things up to the Nos. 9 and 10 seeds, but it will be an uphill battle. And it seems unlikely that Washington would make any real noise in the postseason against a higher-seeded opponent.
Beal’s contract situation isn’t ideal for the Wizards either. Although he did sign an extension with the team in 2019, that deal essentially only tacked on one guaranteed year to his previous contract, meaning he’ll still be able to reach the open market in 2022. That doesn’t give the Wizards a ton of time to turn things around.
It’s a safe bet that teams around the NBA will blowing up GM Tommy Sheppard‘s phone between now and the March 25 deadline to see whether Beal is available. With Harden off the market, Beal is the most appealing star who could realistically be on the block. The Heat, whose strong interest in Beal has been stated repeatedly over the last year, would be at the front of the line, but they’d have plenty of competition for a player who would be a strong fit in virtually any and every system.
Beal has spent his entire career in D.C., has talked about his loyalty to the city and to the franchise, and has backed up his words with actions, as his 2019 extension showed. But he has also made it clear that he wants to win a championship. If the Wizards, whose win total has declined each year since 2016/17, don’t start trending in the right direction, it’s hard to imagine him recommitting to the franchise when his current contract expires (right around the time he turns 29).
With all that in mind, we want to know what you think. Will the Beal trade rumors heat up in the next couple months? Will the Wizards have to start seriously considering moving him? Or do you expect the All-Star guard to remain in Washington for the foreseeable future?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!
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