The stage is set for Bradley Beal to sign a max contract when NBA free agency begins Thursday.
Beal's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday that his client has declined his $36.4 million player option with the Washington Wizards for the 2022-23 season.
This certainly isn't a surprise since Beal is now eligible to sign a supermax deal with another team for four years or with the Wizards for five years.
Here are some instant thoughts on Beal declining his option to become a free agent.
Beal Should Explore His Options
Let's get one thing out of the way to start: Bradley Beal isn't going anywhere.
Wojnarowski reported last week on SportsCenter that Beal is "very likely" to sign a supermax extension with the Wizards.
Beal, who said during the season it was "fair" to assume he was leaning toward re-signing with Washington, told The Athletic's Josh Robbins on June 18 that he had already made up his mind but wasn't going to disclose it at that point.
But as he prepares to enter his 11th season in the NBA, what's the harm that could come from Beal at least looking at other teams? The Wizards want to keep him, and they aren't such a hot free-agent destination that they would pull their offer if he didn't immediately agree to a deal.
Of course, the biggest problem with exploring options this offseason is so few teams have cap space to add a supermax salary.
It's not hard to see why Beal would want to take a deal from the Wizards. Assuming he re-signs on a supermax, the total value will be for $248 million over five years. The total value of a four-year contract from another team would be about $184 million.
Wizards Putting Beal in Position to Succeed
Outside of needing to re-sign Beal, the biggest question for the Wizards this offseason was how they would upgrade their point guard position.
They found an answer earlier Wednesday when The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Wizards were nearing a deal with the Denver Nuggets for Monte Morris and Will Barton in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith.
Morris had a strong 2021-22 season as the Nuggets starting point guard with Jamal Murray recovering from a torn ACL. The 27-year-old averaged 12.6 points and 4.4 assists per game in 75 appearances.
Beal is not as his best as a facilitator running the entire offense. He's a good enough passer to make it work, but having a traditional point guard like Morris should make things easier on him.
Morris is a capable defensive player, leading all qualified point guards in defensive real plus-minus last season (5.89), and is a 39.4 percent shooter from three-point range in his career.
Supermax Would Represent Significant Risk for Wizards
Even if Beal signs the five-year supermax extension with the Wizards, there's nothing stopping him from potentially seeking a trade at some point in the future if the organization continues to struggle.
The Wizards haven't finished over .500 since 2017-18 (43-39) with just one playoff appearance since then in 2020-21.
Beal would hardly be the first NBA star to sign a long-term extension with a team only to decide later he wants something else.
But there's also something else to consider: What if Beal's play continues to decline?
Beal is only 29 and should have at least a few more years in his prime. He does have durability concerns that could become a big problem the older he gets. The three-time All-Star has missed 69 games over the past three seasons, including 42 in 2021-22 because of a torn ligament in his left wrist that required surgery.
Despite posting back-to-back seasons averaging at least 30 points per game in 2019-20 and 2020-21, Beal's shooting efficiency has dipped in recent years. He was a 39.3 percent three-point shooter over his first six seasons from 2012-13 to 2017-18.
Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Beal has made 34.5 percent of his three-point attempts. His effective field-goal percentage hasn't been higher than 54.0 in a single season since a career-high 56.6 percent mark in 2016-17.
It's not hard to envision a scenario in which a supermax contract for Beal would be an albatross for the franchise very soon.