Finally, the week of the NBA draft is upon us, with free agency on the horizon as well. All of the conjecture and speculation that has been floating around the last few months now comes to a head, and reality will soon set in.
But until Thursday's draft arrives, one major rumor has the basketball news cycle ablaze, and that is the possible trade request from Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal.
The Warriors have been long-rumored to be interested in acquiring Beal if he were to become available, but until this moment, there was a league-wide understanding that he would remain with the Wizards. That has since changed as reports started surfacing that in the coming days, Beal would make it known to Washington whether or not he wishes to stay with the team for the upcoming season.
Beal is on the last year of his contract before he likely declines a player option for the 2022-23 season, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. Because of this, the power to decide which team he ends up with is likely in his hands, as he has the ability to pick which teams he would intend to re-sign with following this season.
If Beal wants out and picks the Warriors as one of his preferred destinations, then Golden State would assuredly try their best to work out a deal with Washington. And if they do so, the league should be very scared.
Beal is an elite scorer from the guard position who can create on his own or play off the ball, making him a great fit with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Some are worried about Beal's poor defensive reputation to go with his 6-foot-3 stature next to Curry in the backcourt, but in today's NBA, good team defensive chemistry and motivation can make up for poor individual one-on-one defenders. Let's keep in mind that current NBA title favorite started Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Joe Harris in the same lineup.
With or without a trade for Beal, the Warriors' ability to contend for the title will likely depend on Thompson's health and the moves they make to solidify their rotation with veteran help. But dreaming of a scenario in which Curry, Beal, Thompson and Green start together, followed by Curry and Green manning the end of the first and third quarters before Beal and Thompson run the second unit should make the Warriors' coaching staff and front office drool.
Fears of leveraging the entire Warriors' future for a chance at Beal are understandable, but it is also important to note that Beal will only be 28 years old this upcoming season, which makes him likely to be at the top of his game through another life span of a supermax contract.
The Western Conference is loaded with a ton of good teams that will be vying for a playoff spot next season, but until this offseason plays out and the landscape of blockbuster trades and acquisitions becomes clearer, there seems to be a void of elite teams out West.
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The Phoenix Suns took a major leap this season and made a run just short of the title, and it is very possible that their young stars continue to improve to make them the team to beat in the West. However, Chris Paul will be a year older and the Suns showed plenty of vulnerabilities in their four straight losses to the Bucks.
Meanwhile, the LA Clippers lost Kawhi Leonard to an ACL injury, the Denver Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray and the Los Angeles Lakers seem to be in need of a roster reset around an aging LeBron James and an oft-injured Anthony Davis.
The Utah Jazz showed yet again that they are not ready to break through in the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks have a future MVP in Luka Doncic but have some major roster holes that need to be addressed, the Memphis Grizzlies are improving quickly and could be ready to make a leap soon but perhaps not yet, while the Portland Trail Blazers are in scramble mode to make Damian Lillard happy.
Any of these teams could make major trades or free agent moves to vault themselves to the top of the West, which also is exactly what the Warriors are trying to do.
And if the Dubs pull it off before any other teams react with their own moves, Las Vegas bettors will surely be the first ones to make it known where the Warriors stand in the West.
Right at the top.