Friday will mark three years since Bradley Beal signed a five-year max contract to stay with the Wizards beyond his rookie deal. With three years having passed, and two to go before he hits free agency, the Wizards will be eligible to offer him another contract extension.
This one is projected to be worth $111 million over three years and the team intends to make Beal an offer "at the very first moment allowed," general manager Tommy Sheppard told ESPN.
Beal will have from Friday until Oct. 21 to make his decision and he doesn't have to pick the three-year deal. The Wizards are willing to give Beal a one- or two-year extension, if that is what he prefers. Those contracts would be worth $34.5 million or $71.8 million, respectively.
The reasons why the Wizards would offer Beal an extension are easy to see. Yet still, it seems like a safer bet that he won't sign it.
One glaring reason for that is, financially, Beal can simply make a lot more money if he waits.
If he re-signs with the Wizards in the summer of 2021, when he can hit free agency, he could make about $218 million over five years, according to Pro Basketball Talk's projections. If he left in free agency that summer, he could make $118 million over three years, slightly more than the $111 million the Wizards can offer now.
Where Beal can really strike it rich is if he makes All-NBA this season or the next. Then he would be in line for a supermax contract, which right now projects as $254 million over five years. The final year of that contract would pay him $58 million.
In all three of those scenarios — re-signing with the Wizards, leaving in free agency and signing a supermax — he would make more money annually from 2021 to 2024 than he would on the deal the Wizards can currently offer him.
If it’s only about the money, it is essentially a no-brainer for Beal to wait. But it isn't only about the money, as Beal detailed publicly towards the end of last season.
Back in April, when he was discussing the possibility of a $194 million supermax contract he ended up not qualifying for, he said he was more focused on winning than getting the biggest deal possible.
"I have a lot of money now, so money’s not the problem or the question. I wanna be able to know that we’re going in the right direction in the future," he said.
Though Beal has made conflicting remarks about his future with the Wizards, like how he "would 100 percent die in that Wizards jersey" in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Beal's quest to play for a contender is no act. Now 26 and a two-time All-Star, he is tired of losing. He is getting restless.
Beal has been been closely watching the Wizards' offseason moves and will need to be further convinced on the team's long-term vision, according to a person familiar with his thinking. Beal has reached a point where he doesn't want to waste a year of his prime on a losing team.
The problem for the Wizards is that they didn't get better in the short-term this offseason. Though they created some important long-term financial flexibility and added youth and upside, they let more talent leave the organization than they brought in. After winning only 32 games last season, it seems likely they take a step back in 2019-20.
They are following the basketball equivalent of the old adage that sometimes you have to take one step back before you take two steps forward. But the path forward, at this point, is an abstract projection. It is a vision the Wizards need Beal to see and be patient enough to wait for.
Add it all up and Beal signing the contract extension would amount to a surprise. It would go against what he has suggested publicly about his future goals and against financial sense.
So, the real question might be what the Wizards and Beal should do in the event they don't reach an agreement. In today's NBA, it is not as simple as just moving on like nothing happened.
Beal is already the subject of rampant trade rumors despite the Wizards giving assurances both privately and publicly that they won't deal him. Nowadays, his Twitter mentions are instantly flooded with comments and memes from Miami fans about him playing for the Heat. If he turns down an extension, that speculation won't exactly go away.
Many times, it becomes untenable. Even though Beal is likely to say the right things and not formally request a trade — (he has vowed that he won't) — it would be difficult for him and the Wizards to control the narrative.
The smart way to spin it, though, may be simple. Just say Beal is betting on himself. Any fan who recognizes the money he can earn by waiting should understand. Why take $111 million when you could potentially get $254 million?
It seems clear where all of this is headed. Beal will get the extension offer on Friday and, after taking his time to consider it, likely offer a polite rejection. How the Wizards go from there, though, will be fascinating.
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