Bradley Beal Should Be The NBA’s Most Coveted Trade Target This Season

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We’re at the point in the NBA offseason where we can survey the league and project things out with some amount of certainty. The biggest fishes in the free agent pond have made up their minds, while the biggest names that ended up on the trade block have been moved. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, any additions to rosters league-wide will happen around the margins.

Of those potential major additions on the trade market right now, though, it’s hard to imagine any of them moving in the next week or two unless something changes with Chris Paul or Kevin Love suddenly finds a suitor. If there is one player who could simultaneous stand to be traded soon and cause the winds to shift for a contender, though, it might just be Bradley Beal.

Why? As Candace Buckner of the Washington Post laid out earlier this week, Beal is up for an extension from the Washington Wizards. There is a possibility that the two sides are unable to come to some type of agreement. In the event that occurs, all of a sudden, Beal could become extremely available.

On July 26, exactly three years after Beal signed his max deal, the Wizards can officially present a three-year, $111 million extension. The team has indicated it plans to give Beal the offer, and both the player’s camp and the franchise have remained in contact throughout the summer. Around the league, however, the extension is not viewed as a done deal, and there is a growing belief that Beal will not remain in Washington for his entire career.

“He’s out of there,” one well-placed person within the NBA predicted.

Buckner also pointed out that the Wizards are currently a ship with no captain, as it is still trying to figure out who will lead its front office into the future after parting ways with longtime executive Ernie Grunfeld in April. This is something that looms large over Beal’s decision.

“Washington is where I’ve been the last seven years, going on eight,” Beal said. “It would be great to play in one place forever. But at the same time, you want to win and make sure you’re in a position to do so. I’m definitely going to evaluate who we hire as the GM and who we pick up on the team. All that plays a factor.”

Beal is somewhat unique. The Wizards have long been considered John Wall’s team, but as Wall and his monster contract age — something that has manifested itself as injuries over the last few years — Beal has shouldered a larger load. All he has done in response to this is find ways to get better, and while Wall’s deal is a millstone hanging around the franchise’s neck, Beal has shown that he is capable of responding when asked to lead a team.

There is, of course, an inherent risk to extrapolating out a collection of games to an entire season. However, this sample is for just over half of a season — 45 games — so we can say with some amount of certainty that what Beal did after Wall went down last season was really, really special. It also happened on a team that wasn’t particularly good, which is the issue with the Wizards going forward. Beal is the kind of guy that, in the right situation, could play a major role on a team with championship aspirations. The balancing act for him is figuring out if Washington can put him in a position to do that when the team puts a monstrous contract in front of him.

If he decides that cannot happen, the clock begins ticking.

Beal, more so than Paul or Love or anyone else who could end up on the trade block, becomes the single most fascinating player who could change teams this season. He’s an excellent player whose markedly gotten better over his career, has shown that he can thrive in a more prominent role when he’s asked to take one on, and by the way, is relatively young for a guy who is about to enter his eighth year in the league — Beal turned 26 less than a month ago, meaning that in the event he becomes an unrestricted free agent when his contract is up in the summer of 2021, two of the four or five years he’d play out would occur before he turns 30.