Monumental Victory or Major Mistake: What Does Bradley Beal’s Contract Extension Means?
Bradley Beal shocked the NBA when he signed a two-year extension worth $72 million essentially locking him up in Washington for at least the next three seasons (the second year of the extension being a player option).
At a time when almost every superstar is forcing their way out to join other stars in to become a contender, Beal stayed true to his word and chose loyalty and perhaps money over winning, curiously, during his prime years.
So what does this signing really means to Beal, to the Wizards and the rest of the league?
For Beal, it means financial security and maximizing his earning potential while at the peak of his career.
Beal took a calculated risk in signing now rather than later. While he has a chance to earn a more lucrative extension next summer if he gets an All-NBA selection nod, Beal made the safest bet by signing now. Having watched his backcourt partner John Wall falling to a devastating injury with an insurance courtesy of his supermax deal and on the flipside, DeMarcus Cousin losing tons of money by risking on one-year deals, served as cautionary tales and may have played a part in Beal’s decision. The risk of injury gets higher as his usage rate goes up without Wall. Beal led the league in minutes played last season and there’s no indication that it will go down this year.
By also signing the extension, Beal stays on track in getting the supermax deal down the road. In the summer of 2022, he will be eligible to sign the biggest contract in NBA history at that time by virtue of having 10 years of league service. The projected worth of a five-year supermax deal for him would be a whopping $266 million. Add that to his current deal of $127 million (he signed in 2016) plus the $72 million-extension and that’s close to half a billion earnings he wouldn’t get elsewhere.
As a backup plan in case they can’t build an elite team in D.C. between now and 2022, Beal could enter free agency at his late 20’s as one of the top-tier stars. By signing that two-year extension, he would also avoid a crowded 2021 free agency class which will be headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Blake Griffin, Jrue Holiday, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and could be joined by LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and more superstars if they decline their player options.
So this move looks like a sound business decision from a financial standpoint. But how about on the court?
At 26, Beal is at best a complimentary player on a championship-caliber team. The Wizards, meanwhile, view him as a franchise player and Beal shares that belief. m
“Brad has always made it clear to me, that in a perfect world, he would never leave Washington,” his agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who broke the news on Thursday. “He has felt an obligation to be the focal point in turning the Wizards into an elite team.”
So he refused to be a bandwagoner and ride on other stars’ coattails. He wanted to be the alpha and the Wizards have given him his shot.
Maybe in Beal’s mind, he’s betting that by the time he’d reach his 30’s and with the bag already secured, he can chase the ring either with the Wizards or another team at a time when the LeBron’s, Curry’s and Kawhi’s are all in decline.
For the Wizards, this is a monumental victory for the franchise to have one of their stars buy into their new vision. Wizards governor Ted Leonsis and new GM Tommy Sheppard have done wonders in the past few months reshaping their organization. They have passed their first acid test by getting a long term commitment from their star guard.
Now they have their perfect ambassador of their Monumental Basketball in the hopes of luring other stars to join him down the road. The league will be watching what they do next especially with Wall’s albatross contract.
The pressure is now on Wizards to translate the vision they sold to Beal into reality within the next three years.
In a weaker East deserted by Leonard and still without Kevin Durant, Sheppard now has a more respectable team to field rather than have a full rebuild.
The hope is that with a fresh start, the core of Beal along with the much improved Thomas Bryant and lottery pick Rui Hachimura can make some noise and improve on their 32-50 record last season. If Beal can lead the team in the postseason, then it could serve as the sweetener of this deal.
Beal’s extension also provided them some short term flexibility by creating a more valuable bargaining chip in the trade table in case their partnership turns sour along the way. That guaranteed deal up to 2022 will come in handy if they decide to trade him next summer in exchange for young pieces and draft assets.
For the NBA and rest of the league, it means that loyalty isn’t dead yet. And the trade chatter dies down, at least for now, as Beal is ineligible to be moved this season. The teams who have been targeting him will keenly monitor the situation in Washington this season.
This may also boost the stocks of the likes of Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan as swing-for-the-fences piece for playoff teams in the February trade deadline.
In essence, Beal got his money and his shot to forge his own legacy in Washington. The Wizards got off to a good start in the post-Ernie Grunfeld era. So everyone’s happy in D.C for now.
On these merits alone, it’s a monumental victory for both parties. But only time will tell if this could be a major mistake.