All season, ever since the Wizards and Bradley Beal didn't reach an agreement on an extension before tipoff, I've trumpeted this point of view: He will get a max contract offer in the open market and the team will be obligated to match because the alternative is allowing their No. 3 overall pick from 2012 and best shooter/scorer to walk with nothing in return.
Amin Elhassan, a former front-office executive for the Phoenix Suns and currently a front-office insider for ESPN, spoke to D.C.'s ESPN 980 AM about Beal on Thursday. He was asked if Beal is/will be a max player when free agency opens July 1:
"That question is going to be so irrelevant July 1 because there are 20-plus teams that are going to have max space, 20-plus million dollars. It doesn't matter if you say, 'Well, I don't think so.' You wait long enough. I was talking to a front office executive from a team about a week ago and I said, 'Oh I can't wait for July 16.' He said, 'What do you mean July 16?' I said, 'We know all the good deals will be done in the first couple weeks but July 16 that's when the lights come on in the club and you're looking for anything to go home with. These teams are going to be throwing money at whoever has a pulse. Even if you don't think Bradley Beal is a max deal player, give it a week. I guarantee you he'll be a max player somewhere."
I've echoed this same logic as Elhassan, though not nearly as colorfully. If a max deal was about being an elite player, less than 10 players in the NBA would currently have them. That's not the case because it's not about Player A being better than Player B.
The whole purpose of free agency -- Beal is restricted, not unrestricted which gives the Wizards a chance to retain his services -- is for players who are vested to get a salary bump. For the first four years of Beal's contract, he's on a rookie scale contract that actually depresses his earnings. That's the same for every draft pick. Years vested in the league and seniority mean something which is why the veteran minimum, for instance, is $525,000 for zero years experience and balloons to as much as $1.5 million for 10-plus years.
When Beal hits the market, despite his lengthy injury history, he'll command a max salary. That he has missed time this season for a shoulder contusion, a fourth stress reaction in his lower right leg, a broken nose and concussion and pelvic sprain are not an issue. He hasn't had a season-ending injury that has required surgery. Plus, he's 22.
It's basic supply and demand, and shooters/scorers in today's perimeter-oriented game come at a premium. It's also a futures market. Just because a player isn't at his ceiling (see John Wall when he signed his max deal in 2013) that doesn't preclude him from commanding a max deal. It's about if Beal is healthy. If their coaching staff can get the most out of Beal. If their medical staff can work some magic to keep him on the court longer. That Beal remains in the USA Basketball pool speaks to how highly he's regarded. Based on what he has done in the league maybe he doesn't belong, but if. League executives are of the same mind-set as Mike Krzyzewski. They all can't be stupid. Neither is Elhassan.
There's simply going to be too much money on the open market available as the salary cap grows from $70 million to about $89 million with a lot of expiring contracts because of the league's nine-year, $24 billion TV deal that kicks in for the 2016-17 season. Beal being paid a max salary has to be viewed through that prism to understand how -- and why -- someone will pay him.
More from Elhassan from his days with the Suns:
I lived it. We had Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix. He had great years here, all-NBA years here, All-Star years next to Steve Nash. We offered a $100 million deal that was partially guaranteed. When I say partially I mean about 75 percent guaranteed. It was a good deal and a smart deal on our part because he had a medical history and what happened? The Knicks said, "We'll give you all 100 (million). One-hundred percent guaranteed. And Amar'e left. After the fact he said, 'I really really wanted to stay but I'm not going to pass up guaranteed money.' I think the same thing will happen if you play around with Bradley Beal. ... Someone out there does not care. Someone out there will pay him that money."
Just like a team paid Wes Matthews, fresh off an Achilles tear, $70 million (Dallas Mavericks). Just like a team paid Enes Kanter, who makes more than Marcin Gortat and produces less on both ends, $70 million (Oklahoma City Thunder) to keep him from falling into the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Mavericks have won an NBA championship. The Thunder routinely are in the mix among the top three teams in the West. The Blazers are always competitive and have been a major surprise this season. Are their front offices dumb, too? They write these checks out of necessity unless they have certainty they can replace that player with someone better.
This is the cost of doing business in today's NBA. It's not about deserving a max deal. It's capitalism. Sometimes you have to pony up more than you'd like but that's what competitive bidding does. Those successful franchises threw max money at lesser players than Beal. And it's why the Wizards wouldn't be foolish if they must do the same.
MORE WIZARDS: Nothing new for Beal if Wall can't play