Southeast Notes: Beal, Hawks, Strus, Atkinson

Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal recently sat down with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report (video link; hat tip to ClutchPoints) to discuss his impending free agency. Beal has a $36.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season.

“I know what my decision will be based off of, and that’s gonna be where I feel like I can win. That’s going to be my decision,” Beal said. “If I feel like I can win in D.C., that’s what I’m gonna do, and I want people to respect that. You may or you may not, but I’m gonna work my ass off and I’m gonna compete and I wanna make this team better. If it’s elsewhere, it’s going to be the exact same commitment.”

Should he opt out, Beal would be eligible for a projected five-year, $247MM maximum contract from the Wizards this summer. The most a rival team could offer him in free agency would be a four-year, $183.6MM deal. Washington drafted Beal out of Florida with the third pick in the 2012 draft. He has never played beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Wizards.

A left wrist tear restricted Beal’s availability for much of the 2021/22 NBA season. The three-time All-Star remained relatively productive when he was available, though his shooting numbers dipped in his age-28 season. Beal averaged 23.2 PPG, 6.6 APG, and 4.7 RPG across 40 contests, on .451/.300/.833 shooting. The Wizards finished with a 35-47 record this season.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • After the Hawks made an exciting run to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, they expected more of the same success the following season. Instead, the team finished with a disappointing 43-39 record and was eventually defeated 4-1 in the first round by the Heat. Atlanta seems primed to make changes in the 2022 offseason, prompting Chris Kirschner of The Athletic to list some of his favorite trade targets for Atlanta, including Suns center Deandre Ayton, Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, and Pistons forward Jerami Grant.
  • Following a breakout season with the Heat, 26-year-old wing Max Strus is aware that the team will have heightened expectations heading into the 2022/23 NBA season, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I’ve just got to be more complete,” Strus said of developing his play. “There’s definitely areas for improvement. And that’s exciting about this game, that’s what wants you to keep flourishing, is the challenges that come with it.” In his second season with the Heat, the 6’5″ guard out of DePaul averaged 10.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 1.4 APG, with shooting splits of .441/.410/.792. During an extended playoff run, Strus supplanted Duncan Robinson as the club’s starting shooting guard thanks to his superior defense. The top-seeded team in the East, the Heat went on an extended playoff run before eventually falling 4-3 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Reaction around the hiring of new Hornets head coach Kenny Atkinson has been resoundingly positive, per Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer. Boone explores the expectations surrounding Atkinson and his ability to help Charlotte, led by All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball, move beyond the play-in tournament. Last season under the tutelage of head coach James Borrego, the Hornets finished with a 43-39 record and the No. 10 seed in the East. Atkinson is currently on Steve Kerr‘s bench with the Warriors, in a 2-2 Finals series against the Celtics.
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