Once the free-agent madness that kicks off today simmers down, the Wizards will have a week to figure out what to do regarding Bradley Beal who is eligible for an extension going into the last year of his rookie contract.
"We have all the way to October to get something done on that front," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld told CSNwashington recently. "We'll talk to his agent (Mark Bartelstein) at the appropriate time and see where that process takes us. Obviously, we think very highly of Bradley and we want him here for a very long time."
They can't begin negotiations with him until July 9 and have until the end of October to come to an agreement. If not, discussions must be tabled until the 2015-16 season ends and Beal becomes a restricted free agent.
Beal's production slipped in his third season with 15.3 points a game, two fewer than the previous year, and has to decide between long-term security now or a shorter deal so he'll be in position for a bigger payday when the salary cap is set to explode next season.
Beal has had three stress reactions to his lower right leg in each of his three NBA seasons. He missed the start of a 46-win season this time because of a broken left wrist. Another reaction crept up before the All-Star break and cost him nine games. He has had multiple sprains to both ankles and was driven to tears when leaving the court in the playoffs.
All indications suggest that the Wizards aren't inclined to offer a max contract to a shooting guard who averages 15 points and has trouble consistently manufacturing offense from the free-throw line. Beal's representatives will point to what he can be when he's fully healthy:
- It was Beal's emergence during the postseason, when the Wizards advanced to the conference finals for the second year in a row, that has showed the most promise. He was the Wizards' leading scorer in 10 games at 23.4 points and made it to the foul line six times a game (in 19 of 63 regular-season appearances, he didn't attempt a free throw).
- Beal played lockdown defense on All-Stars DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Korver, the NBA's top three-point shooter, of the Atlanta Hawks.
- Without John Wall setting him up after he broke his left wrist in Game 1 vs. Atlanta, Beal's production actually increased. In the three games that Wall missed, Beal tallied 22 assists.
Recent history suggests the Wizards would prefer to get the issue put to bed now so it doesn't linger throughout the season and serve as a distraction. They offered a max deal to Wall in this same position, before he blossomed into a two-time All-Star, and now his five-year, $80 million deal looks like a bargain.
Wall makes players around him better and the Wizards knew that long before he signed his extension. Despite Beal's down season, will they reach the same conclusion? If allowed to become a restricted free agent, he'll certainly receive other offers which will drive up his pricetag in an open market. It's pay now or pay later.