A max deal for Bradley Beal was a foregone conclusion.
Even after his fourth stress reaction for the fourth year in a row in his lower right leg, every sign pointed towards the Wizards retaining their rising restricted free agent and they did it on the first day of the free-agent period.
Beal's five-year deal for $128 million is fully guaranteed with no opt-out for either side, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.
He played a career-low 55 games in 2015-16 because of multiple injuries in a 41-41 season that ended with the Wizards outside the postseason.
There was no point in the Wizards holding out on Beal, letting him test the market and bring back an offer sheet or any of that other nonsense. Especially without Kevin Durant to lean on, they couldn't take any risks.
- This deal, like all on the first day of free agency, is agreed to in principle. It's not signed. Nothing is signed. That's because the 2016-17 salary cap has to be set and the league office is awaiting completion of the audit of finances. It's projected to be a $94 million salary cap -- $2 million more than what was projected and $24 million more than last season's cap -- with a $111 million luxury tax. Come July 7, when those numbers are made official to the penny, contracts can be signed.
- Beal will sign last. There's no point in having Beal actually sign July 7 because the Wizards, by making him restricted with a $14.2 million qualifying offer earlier in the week, retained first right of refusal. This also means they owned his Bird rights, a salary cap mechanism that allows a team to exceed the cap to retain its own free agents. So they'll take care of the other free agents and do Beal last. Making his deal official earlier, before they use up their cap room, would be pointless. The Wizards' dollars can go farther by using this loophole.
- Everything is relative. Timofey Mozgov, who averaged 6.3 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, agreed to $64 million over four years with the L.A. Lakers. That's an average of $16 million a year for a role player who earned less than $5 million previously. Is Beal a role player? No. Is Beal at least twice as good or valuable than Mozgov? Yes. That's why he got exactly twice as much as Mozgov on the market. Beal averaged 17.4 points in what was a down year. For his career, he shoots 40% from three-point range.
- It's better to max young than max old. Beal is 23. He can grow into a max player, or something close to it, during the life of his deal. A player over 30 is usually trending the other direction and there'll be buyer's remorse in the last few years of such a deal. This is as much as a futures market as anything else. John Wall grew into his max contract and is now considered underpaid. He signed a five-year deal worth $80 million in 2013 and he has been an All-Star three times since.
- Supply vs. demand. Name another shooting guard on the market who is young and can be a major piece four or five years from now and is a better option than Beal? Exactly.
- Why not sign Beal to a shorter deal with an opt-out so he has to "prove" himself? Because he wouldn't sign such a contract and would be a fool to do so since he has the leverage. High demand for young shooters. Low supply in the open market. And let's say hypothetically he signs this type of deal and "proves" himself in such a scenario, you're paying him more in 2017 when the cap rises to about $108 million. Pay now or pay later. Or let him walk and rely on the likes of Eric Gordon
- The Wizards adjusted their treatment for Beal during the season, coming up with more nuanced ways to gauge the overuse injuries to his lower right leg. They fired Eric Waters, head athletic trainer since 2004, with one year left on his contract. They believe they've figured out the problems. Beal is in Los Angeles and has altered his offseason routine and focusing more on treatment in his down time. Time will tell if any of it works.
- Beal has had four stress reactions -- not fractures. Even in media, reports have been erroneous by not denoting the difference. A fracture would require surgery and end Beal's season. Four stress fractures would've already led to early retirement. A reaction is a dark spot on the MRI that is a precursor to a fracture. It's a warning sign. On the glass-is-half-full side of the argument, each stress reaction has been a smaller dark spot. The most recent one has been the smallest. Beal has had two surgeries. He had one to repair a broken nose from a collision this season that resulted in a concussion, too. And two years ago he had a hairline fracture in his left wrist following a collision in a preseason game. His leg isn't littered with screws and plates.
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