Five potential trade partners for Bradley Beal, Wizards
The only player in the NBA with a no-trade clause is about to get traded.
New Washington Wizards team president Michael Winger has a plan for the Wizards that isn’t “try to hang around 40 wins and get the No. 8 seed.” The Wizards need to take a step back to take a step forward, and that will mean a Bradley Beal trade. The Wizards’ front office and Beal’s agent Mark Bartelstein are working together to find a deal that works for Washington and makes Beal happy enough that he will waive that no-trade clause. (Although with four years, $207.7 million left on his contract, Beal should be plenty happy regardless.)
Here are five potential trade destinations for Beal, just remember he controls the process and can’t be sent anywhere he doesn’t want to go. I tried to keep these realistic, which is why no Boston on the list. While the Celtics are high on the Vegas lines as a landing spot, the only way it works is a Jaylen Brown sign-and-trade, and Boston rightfully would rather sign and keep the 26-year-old entering his prime instead of getting 29-year-old often injured Beal (and if you think Brown is turning down the supermax contract only the Celtics can give him, you need to put the pipe down). Same with the report of the Kings having interest in Beal, even if he would sign off on it that’s an ugly trade for the Wizards.
Here are the five more likely Beal trade destinations (this list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good start).
Miami should be the runaway favorite. This is a franchise Beal has reportedly long had a long interest in joining, a place where he can contend, he jumps to a franchise famed for reviving and extending careers, and gets to live in a warm climate while not paying state taxes. Miami earned their way to the NBA Finals this season, but the loss to Denver exposed the need for more quality shot creation beyond Jimmy Butler. Beal could thrive in that role. These two sides fit like puzzle pieces.
Only two things would hold Miami back. The first is the possibility that Damian Lillard might be available via trade. Right now that is not the case and league sources continue to tell NBC Sports not to expect things to change — Portland plans to build a playoff team around Lillard this offseason, not move him. Miami might wait a little though, just because Lillard right now is a superior player to Beal, so if the situation changes he would be the priority. The second issue is financial — the new CBA and its draconian second apron will be hard to navigate for teams with three big contracts and the Heat would have around $130 million a year locked into Butler, Beal and Adebayo. They will struggle to round out a roster around them.
What would a Beal to Miami trade look like? Probably something along the lines of Tyler Herro (after July 1 his extension kicks in at $27 million), Duncan Robinson, this year’s No. 18 pick and a protected future first-round pick for Beal. That trade could get bigger if Washington were to send Monte Morris to Miami and the Heat sent Victor Oladipo or Kyle Lowry to Washington. There are plenty of ways to make this trade work on Draft night before the new CBA and Herro’s extension kick in. There would be details to hammer out, but it’s not hard to assemble a trade that works for both sides. That’s another reason the Heat should be the favorite here.
This team is on my list because it was mentioned as an interested team in the initial report on a potential trade by Shams Charania, but it is a long shot at best. It’s not an easy trade to construct in a way the Bucks would want. It would be simple to trade Jrue Holiday for Beal, but that would be a massive defensive downgrade for Milwaukee and leave them without a traditional point guard. The more likely scenario would be a sign-and-trade that sends Khris Middleton (who has a $40.4 million player option) to Washington for Beal, but is that an upgrade for Milwaukee? When healthy, Middleton is an elite two-way wing who is the team’s primary shot creator in half court in the clutch (Giannis Antetokounmpo plays more off-ball in those situations). It also doesn’t solve the issue of how expensive the Bucks are becoming (especially if they pay free agent Brook Lopez market value this summer to stay as their 35-year-old center).
Also, does Beal want to go to Milwaukee? That is unknown.
If James Harden leaves for Houston, it makes sense for Philadelphia to jump into the Beal sweepstakes, even if he is not exactly a one-for-one replacement (Harden is more of a point guard and facilitator than Beal). Philadelphia could put together a trade based around Tobias Harris and one other small contract (such as Jaden Springer), plus a pick. Is that enough to interest Washington? Would Beal want to go to Philly? A lot of questions, but there is some logic in them being on the list.
New York Knicks
“New York’s front office has already let necessary people know the team would be interested in the former All-NBA guard if he were to become available,” reports Fred Katz of The Athletic. Meaning the Knicks want to be in the sweepstakes, but should they? On paper Beal compliments Jalen Brunson in the backcourt, where Beal can work off the ball much of the time, jack up 3s, and run some pick-and-roll and attack when the matchup is right. Those are the situations where he has thrived.
However, as evidenced by their run to the second round this postseason, the Knicks have become good enough that they can be a little picky and not have to accept any star who wants to come to Madison Square Garden. Trade for Beal (even on a lowball offer) and the Knicks kill their cap flexibility for the next four years — this is basically your roster. With Beal making more than $50 million and having a no-trade clause, the Knicks would up against the second tax apron and have limited flexibility. And what Beal are the Wizards getting? Because 2018 Beal is a great fit, but in the past four seasons Beal has not played more than 60 games due to injuries and has not shot better than 36.5% from 3.
The other teams on this list — Miami, Philly, Milwaukee, and the Clippers below — are desperate win-now teams who see their title window closing and believe Beal can prop it open a couple more years. The Knicks should not be that desperate. They haven’t opened their window yet, and it’s fair to ask if Beal is the guy who can open it and keep it there in a deep East. Does adding Beal put the Knicks on the same tier as Boston/Milwaukee? Not sure he does if the last four years are any indication. But the Knicks are in the mix.
Los Angeles Clippers
NBA trades are about relationships. This isn’t a fantasy league, most NBA trades happen between teams where segments of the front offices have pre-existing relationships, making trust in the negotiations a little easier. Michael Winger, the new Wizards president bringing needed change to the nation’s capital, came from the Clippers. Add in that the Clippers are desperate to win in the fast-closing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George era — plus Steve Ballmer has the cash to pay for any tax — and you have a potential deal.
Winger certainly knows the Clippers’ roster. He probably would want Terance Mann, two first-round picks (the Clippers have two to trade after July 1, both well out in the future in 2028 and 2030), and some combination of Eric Gordon, Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum and whatever to make the numbers work. While the Clippers would be stuck with Beal for four years, this season with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George they would be the ultimate “if this team is healthy come the playoffs” contender. Lawrence Frank and the Clippers are not afraid of big swings.