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Barnes could come available while Warriors chase Durant

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Barnes could come available while Warriors chase Durant

Lost in all the shock about the Golden State Warriors being in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes this summer -- it shouldn't be because this wasn't a big secret they'd enter the chase -- is a key player who could have some value pending how you view Harrison Barnes. 

How much value is in question. In this report from Monte Poole, Warriors Insider for CSNBayArea.com, the team has reservations about Barnes who was the seventh overall pick in 2012. Barnes is averaging a career-high 11.9 points on 46.5% shooting and 4.5 rebounds. He's also shooting 39.4% from three-point range.

What has made Barnes, who was a key component to their 2014-15 NBA championship team, potentially expendable?

Golden State drafted forward Kevin Looney in 2015 and, according to Poole, his "presence could affect how much the Warriors are willing to go to pay Harrison Barnes, who in July becomes a restricted free agent."

Barnes turned down a four-year, $64 million extension before the season and he will be looking to score a deal that pays him more than Draymond Green who is the more valuable of the two.

Everybody can't be given a max with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson ahead of Barnes on that priority list for Golden State, too.

Assume that the Wizards can't get Durant and Barnes is allowed to walk. How much would you pay for him considering you're betting on his ceiling rather than his individual accomplishment?

RELATED: Wizards find blueprint to victory in a loss

Poole, who is well-connected and well-respected in the Bay Area covering sports there for 30-plus years, broke down the view on Barnes from within and around the organization: 

Barnes, however, remains an enigma. Chosen 28 picks ahead of Green in the 2012 draft, Barnes manages to be simultaneously the most athletic and least impactful member of the starting lineup. His game-winning jumper last Saturday in Philadelphia notwithstanding, Barnes frazzles at least as often as often as he dazzles.

A little more than halfway through this season, Barnes has not made a strong case to command a megadeal. When he missed 16 games with an ankle sprain, there formed a couple strikes against him. One was that the team did not stumble with his replacement, Brandon Rush, who was coming out of a three-year professional coma. The other was an undercurrent of disenchantment within the organization about Barnes’ slow recovery.

The bottom-line results have been inconclusive, but most assuredly not in Barnes’ favor. The Warriors are 14-1 when he starts at small forward alongside the four regular starters and 16-1 when Rush starts with the same foursome.

Is Barnes still worth the gamble? In the final year of a four-year rookie scale contract that paid him a total of $8.8 million, he has earned a raise. 

If he commands a max, the assumption is that he will or something close to it in the inflated open market, who pulls the trigger? What it means to be a max player has become warped but that kind of money suggests a player should be at least the No. 2 option. With the Warriors, Barnes is No. 4 at best.

There's no deferring to the likes of Curry and Thompson when you're the No. 1 or 2 option and it's impossible to gauge who will rise or shrink from those expectations because human behavior is unpredictable. The Wizards have a similar decision to make with Bradley Beal who was taken four spots ahead of Barnes in the 2012 draft as he also will be a restricted free agent. Beal's only issue is health as he is battled-tested in ways that Barnes hasn't been.

The guess here is some team will take that risk as there will be lesser-talented players than Barnes who'll profit and justifiably so. No one is forcing any owner or GM to overbid for services just because of the salary cap explosion ahead. 

But they all better be careful because what looks like a great free-agent signing in the summer of 2016 will turn into buyer's remorse by 2018.

MORE WIZARDS: 'Brilliant', bold and otherworldy Stephen Curry downs Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

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There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen soon.

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There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

UP NEXT: Reasons for trading Bradley Beal

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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