Why Would The Wizards Give Bradley Beal A Max-Level Contract Extension?

Bradley Beal
Getty Image

Players have almost no leverage in extension negotiations as restricted free agency looms the following summer. There’s simply very little incentive for teams to lock-up youngsters before they hit the semi-open market, and that’s especially true if the player in question is asking for an ultra-lucrative deal that takes potential performance going forward into account.

But that’s the nature of development in basketball. Most players not only improve from season-to-season over their first several professional campaigns, but the subsequent handful, too. In the majority of cases, a player’s “prime” begins well into his second contract and is often sustained through his third. Even without restricted free agency, extensions on rookie contracts would be tricky – foresight is inevitably involved in those negotiations, and the player and team always have different versions of what the future looks like with 20/20 vision. That the latter side can basically hold the former hostage without fear of realistic recourse only makes matters more difficult.

That’s where Bradley Beal is with the Washington Wizards – between the rock of expecting a new contract that befits his status as a rising star, and the hard place of restricted free agency coming after 2015-2016. Unsurprisingly, discussions between he and the Wizards have gone nowhere since it was reported last month that initial talks had stalled.

Why? Beal is apparently seeking a max-level contract. J. Michael of CSN Washington provides the update on this slowly evolving situation:

When Bradley Beal gets to Verizon Center, and based on where his contract talks stand with the Wizards as of Thursday, he still won’t have an extension… While talks remain open, CSNmidatlantic.com was told, there hasn’t been any movement. Beal, who believes he’s worth a max deal, just returned from Taiwan and president Ernie Grunfeld had been on vacation.

Beal is arguably the most promising young shooting guard in the game. He’s a marksman from three-point range, made major strides as a pick-and-roll creator and interior finisher last season, and has the makings of a plus defender. In time, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be worth the maximum salary he’s reportedly seeking.

Unless he makes serious noise about playing 2016-2017 on a qualifying offer should the Wizards opt against acquiescing to current his demands, they just don’t have much reason to bite. Not only has the 22-year-old been stricken with relatively serious injuries in two of his three seasons, but Washington also has hopes of luring Kevin Durant back home once free agency tips-off on July 1.

Bradley Beal
Getty Image

Committing a starting max-level salary – approximately $20 million – to Beal now would take a major chunk out of the Wizards’ projected cap space next summer. If they choose to let him play out his rookie deal without a new one in place for 2015-2016, on the other hand, Beal would count roughly $9 million less against the cap before Washington uses Bird Rights to re-sign him. The team will have enough money to sign Durant outright regardless, but that extra wiggle room could certainly come in handy as Ernie Grunfeld and company try to lure the 2014 MVP to the nation’s capitol with as much surrounding talent as possible.

Think about it like this: What exactly is the plausible worst-case scenario for Washington with regard to Beal’s next contract?And how could it possibly doom them? Answering both questions in Beal’s favor is a major stretch. Restricted free agency is a loser’s game for players of his caliber. They’re forced to mediate from a position of weakness; the franchise holds almost every potentially winning card.

And at the moment, Beal is learning of that harsh reality on the fly. Either way, though, don’t expect him to be playing for any team other than the Wizards next season and the many more to come.

[Via CSN Washington]