Get Him Help or Get Him Out? Top Bradley Beal Trade Ideas
The status quo can't cut it for Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards.
He's a 26-year-old two-time All-Star who lost his backcourt mate, John Wall, to an Achilles tear and lacks proven talent around him. They're coming off a 50-loss season and still lurking precariously close to the luxury-tax line.
Something has to give.
Beal has had a three-year, $111 million max extension on the table since July, per The Athletic's David Aldridge, but he has little incentive to sign it. He can make more money by waiting—an All-NBA honor would make him supermax-eligible—and he'll have time to see what, if any, roster improvements the club can make.
The Wizards, meanwhile, keep insisting they want to build around Beal and have zero interest in dealing him. But even a cursory glance at this roster shows flaws that could necessitate a rebuild sooner than later.
So, what's the best way for Beal and the Wizards to proceed? Can Washington get him proper support, or should it use him to fuel a reconstruction? We'll examine both sides with potential trade packages worth exploring.
Cheap Backcourt Flier
Washington Wizards Receive: Kris Dunn
Chicago Bulls Receive: CJ Miles, 2022 second-round pick (most favorable of Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons or Los Angeles Lakers)
Few motivations in trade talks are more powerful than desperation, and there are few more desperate depth chart situations than the Wizards' point guard group (no John Wall, a banged-up Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith) and the Bulls' wing reserves (Denzel Valentine, Chandler Hutchison and...that's it).
See where this is going?
After two uneven and trade-rumor-filled seasons in Chicago, Dunn might feel like a lost cause for Windy City faithful. That idea should sound wild to anyone else, especially a team with as many questions at point guard as the Wizards.
Three years ago, Dunn was the fifth overall pick, selected right in front of Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray. His DraftExpress scouting report said his "combination of elite physical tools, ability to get to the rim, both in transition and off the dribble, passing ability, and defensive upside gives him an immense amount of potential..."
The Wizards have to see if Dunn can get his groove back. The risk would be minimal, if it even exists. The trade cost would be next to nothing, and Dunn's arrival would be infinitely more exciting than whatever Thomas and Smith can offer.
Even if Dunn doesn't dramatically improve, he could ease the defensive burden on Beal and perhaps unlock some off-ball offensive value since he has the athleticism and strength to finish plays as a cutter.
The Bulls might feel they're selling low on Dunn, but that's only true if other offers are on the table. If they were, you'd think Chicago would have pounced by now. This isn't quite giving him away, either, since Miles, a career 35.9 percent perimeter shooter, could conceivably snag a second-team role and the pick might fall in the early second round.
Trading Potential for Stability at the Wing
Washington Wizards Receive: Robert Covington
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: CJ Miles, Troy Brown Jr., 2022 second-round pick (most favorable of Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons or Los Angeles Lakers)
If the Wizards keep Beal, their win-now intentions will be transparent. So, too, will be the obvious need for an upgrade at small forward, where the possibly past-his-prime Miles and organic-granola-raw Brown occupy the top two spots on the depth chart.
Robert Covington would be a dream get, particularly given Washington's roster restraints. He defends four positions—sometimes all five in a pinch—and stripes threes with impressive volume (career 2.8 makes per 36 minutes). For a 28-year-old role player, he's about as good as it gets. This past season, he snagged a top-40 spot in ESPN's real plus-minus rankings.
"He slots in as one of the most universally helpful wing players in the league," Sports Illustrated's Rob Mahoney wrote. "Every team has use for a first-rate perimeter defender, in particular one with this kind of positional fluidity. ... Lean on Covington to lock down on defense and spread the floor on offense and the work of building a winning team becomes substantially easier."
Covington would immediately offer Beal defensive relief and more breathing room on offense. Since he's signed through 2022, he would also be around to help a hopefully recovered John Wall later.
So why would the Wolves want to move him?
It's possible they don't, although ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported in July they "were offering him around at the draft as they looked to move up." He has likely realized his full potential and had knee surgery in April, so maybe Minnesota would swap his high floor for a higher long-term ceiling.
If the Wolves take the long view with Karl-Anthony Towns' supermax just kicking in, they could be intrigued by 20-year-old Troy Brown Jr., a 6'7" swingman who might be a steady jumper away from being a do-it-all support player. Tack on Miles (a usable shooter or possible trade chip on an expiring contract) and a potentially early future second, and maybe Minnesota takes the chance to brighten its future.
Loading Up for John Wall’s Return
Washington Wizards Receive: Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Ian Mahinmi, CJ Miles, Jemerrio Jones, 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
In January, an NBA executive told Bleacher Report's Ken Berger that "the two worst contracts in the league" belonged to Kevin Love and John Wall. Naturally, we're looking to put them on the same payroll, and we see a way in which it's not totally ill-advised.
Let's say Washington thinks higher of its outlook than most. Given the organization's annual investments in win-now acquisitions, that doesn't seem a huge stretch. Now, let's couple that with loads of optimism around Wall's recovery.
Couldn't you then see a scenario in which it tries to buy low on Love, the floor-spacer this frontcourt has long needed and a super fun pick-and-pop partner for Wall and Beal?
As recently as 2016-17, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks built a top-10 offense around Wall and Beal. Granted, Wall had fewer question marks then, but Beal was also less developed. That starting frontcourt featured Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat.
Swap those players out for Love (a floor-spacing, playmaking 4) and Thomas Bryant (a springy 6'11" center with an outside shot), and this attack could easily prove more potent.
The risks are through the roof—Love, Wall and Beal all have or have had major injury issues—and the cost would be astronomic. But with Washington possessing so few attractive trade chips, this could be its only chance to trade for a possible difference-maker.
Publicly, this deal only goes down with a huge concession on Cleveland's part. As Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor reported, the Cavs want "some combination of young players and draft picks" in a theoretical Love trade. They only scratch one itch in this swap, and even that's a heavily protected first-round pick.
Behind closed doors, though, the Cavs might be overjoyed with this outcome. Love's remaining four years and $120.4 million have all the makings of an albatross contract. This would erase it from the books with nary a penny of long-term salary coming back. Miles and Ian Mahinmi are both on expiring deals, and Jemerrio Jones' pact is only partially guaranteed.
Washington would probably push to make this selection a second-rounder, but Cleveland would hold out for a first, knowing cap space doesn't mean much at this stage of its rebuild. Still, this could give the Cavs flexibility in case their youngsters mature at a rapid rate, and it would give the Wizards a possible third star in case their roster is more competitive than it appears.
Relocating to the Rockies
Washington Wizards Receive: Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Jarred Vanderbilt, 2022 first-round pick (top-20 protected), 2024 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Denver Nuggets Receive: Bradley Beal
Every time the Wizards insist they're keeping Beal, the rest of the hoops world collectively raises an eyebrow.
There are ways in which they retain him, get Wall back to full strength and rejoin the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Problem is, there are more scenarios in which Wall is never the same, Beal bolts on his own in 2021 or any number of disasters doom the District.
With a bloated payroll and an uninspiring prospect collection, a rebuild might be unavoidable. If the Wizards ever deem that to be true, they must use Beal's massive trade appeal to replenish their asset collection.
"As difficult as it would be to entertain trading away the lone bright spot in what has become a benighted era in D.C. basketball, it'd be even more painful to fail to build a credible contender around Beal and then watch him walk in two summers with nothing to show for it," The Ringer's Dan Devine wrote.
Here, Gary Harris arrives as a store-brand version of Beal, Michael Porter Jr. is a lottery ticket and Jarred Vanderbilt, a 2017 5-star recruit, could be another.
For Beal, this deal might deliver his first legitimate championship chance. The Nuggets are coming off a 54-win season—the Wizards maxed out at 49 in 2016-17—and they have yet to see the best basketball from 24-year-old centerpiece Nikola Jokic or 22-year-old co-star Jamal Murray.
Add Beal to the equation and this might become the NBA's best offense. All three are potent playmakers, all three are capable outside shooters, and all three can deliver crunch-time knockouts. Each would have a chance to create, but none would dominate the basketball.
The Nuggets could play their brand of the beautiful game and have just enough star power to sneak out of the reconfigured West.
Completing Brooklyn's Big 3
Washington Wizards Receive: Reggie Jackson, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protected, from Brooklyn Nets via Golden State Warriors), 2022 first-round pick (from Brooklyn Nets), 2024 second-round pick (from Detroit Pistons)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Bradley Beal, Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas, Christian Wood
Detroit Pistons Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Davis Bertans
Is it better to have depth supporting a dynamic duo or a full-fledged Big Three? The Nets might claim to have both with DeAndre Jordan playing third wheel to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but they probably couldn't do so with a straight face.
Add Beal to the mix, though, and suddenly the Nets would win the race to the next Big Three (or will once Durant's Achilles heals). Brooklyn would have three of the 11 players to average 23 points and five assists last season; no one else would have more than one.
While there might be a concern with splitting touches, it's worth noting Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has made a habit of empowering multiple shot-creators.
Brooklyn might be top-heavy—don't discount Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas and Christian Wood helping as low-maintenance contributors—but most recent champions have been. The talent would be tremendous. The offense could be unstoppable. And if Atkinson gets complete buy-ins from Jordan and Durant, this defense might be ferocious in its own right.
The Wizards, meanwhile, would lean fully into their rebuild with a mountain of picks and prospects.
There may not be a guaranteed future star in the mix, but Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Rodions Kurucs are all 25-and-under hoopers who have impressed in their short careers, though Kurucs' inclusion could hinge on the outcome of his assault case. Reggie Jackson would step in as the new point guard placeholder and ideally play well enough for Washington to flip him later as an expiring contract.
The Pistons could finally end the Reggie Jackson experiment and bring back a point guard in Spencer Dinwiddie who's comfortable sharing the floor with other ball-handlers (critical to thriving with Blake Griffin). They would also answer a long-standing need for outside shooting in spectacular fashion by adding Joe Harris and Davis Bertans, who finished first and sixth, respectively, in three-point percentage last season.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.