The trade rumors that have swirled around Bradley Beal in recent years have quieted down to some extent in 2021, but the Wizards star tells Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that in “almost every game we play,” an opposing player tries to recruit him to leave D.C.
“It brings you back to college. Which school is the right school? Which team is the right team?” Beal said. “You love the fact that people see your game and would love to play with you. But it’s also tough on the back end, because you have no idea what you want to do.”
Beal is eligible to sign a contract extension anytime, but he’d be able to earn more money if he waits until 2022, turns down his player option, and signs a new contract with the Wizards. Of course, he could also choose to leave the team as a free agent at that point.
As O’Connor writes, Beal remains committed to the Wizards for the time being, but hasn’t made any decision yet about his long-term future. While Beal likes the moves that general manager Tommy Sheppard and his front office made during the offseason, the team knows it needs to do more to convince the three-time All-Star he should remain in Washington for years to come. The goal, according to Sheppard, isn’t to turn into a contender overnight but to continue steadily improving each season.
“We’re going into year three of a plan to be more competitive every year,” Sheppard said. “It’s not a win now. It’s win more.
“… We have all year to keep showing him, ‘Hey, this is a place you’re going to win,'” the Wizards’ GM added. “Then, of course, the championship’s the next thing. But we can’t skip steps. I can’t sit here and look our guys straight in the face and say, ‘We should win a championship this year.’ Not at all. But the more pieces you’ve got, the longer you can hang around. That’s what I really, really believe.”
The Wizards committed to one of the league’s bigger roster shakeups this offseason when they traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers in a five-team blockbuster. Washington folded its Spencer Dinwiddie sign-and-trade acquisition into that deal and acquired five other players, including Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.
Sheppard, who referred to Beal as a “shareholder” in the Wizards, said he bounces major roster moves off of the 28-year-old, so we can safely assume Beal wasn’t caught off guard by the team’s mega-deal. In fact, he told O’Connor that he was “definitely impressed” with the way Sheppard revamped the roster and upgraded the Wizards’ depth without giving up “crazy picks” or other assets.
“It was just me and Russ before. Now we have so many guys who can be versatile with the game. I can play off ball, and take more challenges on the defensive end,” Beal said. “We have probably the best depth we’ve had in a long time, maybe since 2017. To be able to look at the roster on paper, and see we’re three-deep at every position, is pretty good.”
As O’Connor points out, even if Beal is undecided about his future, his safest play might be to lock in a five-year deal with the Wizards for the sake of financial security — if he’s unhappy in two or three years, he could always push for a trade, like many of his contemporaries have. However, Beal is wary of taking that approach, suggesting that if he signs a long-term deal, he wants to be fully bought in.
“That’s kind of a dangerous game to play because you’re not in ultimate control,” Beal said. “Once you sign a five-year deal, you’re pretty much hooked.”
Rival teams – and players – will be keeping a close eye this season on Beal, who could emerge as one of the NBA’s biggest-name candidates to change teams in 2022 if things go south in Washington.