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Morning tip: The real deal when it comes to Bradley Beal

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Morning tip: The real deal when it comes to Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal is a max player, and barring any unfortunate circumstances such as a season-ending injury, he'll be paid like one this summer when the Wizards' oft-injured shooting guard hits the market.

He returned from a 16-game absence Wednesday, scoring 11 points in a 106-101 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks. He's nowhere near his top form and played 23 minutes off the bench but Beal's reappearance has rekindled a lot of what-ifs:

What if he returns to the form he showed early in the season? 

Good for the Wizards and their chances of getting a top 4 seed that guarantees homecourt advantage in the first round. Beal had been out since Dec. 9, everyone under the sun has been injured (add Otto Porter with a sore hip) and the Wizards are just two games from the No. 5 seed in the loss column. Their intentions for the last two seasons have been to max Beal anyway, so if he plays like an All-Star how can that be a bad thing? Figuring out the rotations with Drew Gooden and Nene back playing as well as the emergence of rookie Kelly Oubre is the challenge.

What if another team offers him a max deal when the signing period opens in July?

Beal is restricted. The Wizards would have 72 hours to match and will have the cap room to do it. Not working out an extension before the season began manufactured more cap room for the Wizards to chase other big-name free agents, fill the roster spots that will come open and pay Beal under the Bird rights provision that allows them to exceed the cap. Not an issue. A player's value is determined by the market which is no different than any other business negotiation. It's not about Player A last summer being better than Player B next summer. If players who you are better than get a certain number in their offer during a signing period, you'll get more than that number. If there's high demand but low supply at your position, it raises the pricetag even more. That's the cost of business. Sometimes the market goes up and you pay more. Other times you'll get bargains and pay less. That's how it is. The cap is expanding from $70 million to about $89 million-$90 million starting next season so it's all relative. Contracts will grow. 

What if the Wizards allow him to walk?

Won't happen. The Wizards aren't going to let their No. 3 pick from 2012, who comprises one of the better backcourts in the NBA when he's healthy with John Wall, leave while getting nothing in return. See what happened when the Portland Trail Blazers signed Enes Kanter, a restricted free agent, to a $70 million offere sheet. The Oklahoma City couldn't let him leave after giving up a future first-round pick and Reggie Jackson. Maybe injuries will prevent Beal from reaching his full potential, but before they let Beal go they'd move him in a sign-and-trade instead. In the 2011 CBA, provisions were put in to prevent a repeat of the situation like the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors ended up in with LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010 bolting for the Miami Heat which can gut a franchise. Now players are more inclined to work in concert with the team that holds their Bird rights to work out a deal. A sign-and-trade would allow the Wizards to replace the loss with assets while Beal can earn an extra year (about $20-plus million more) in a deal with the receiving team because his Bird rights would transfer. 

What if Beal develops another stress reaction?

Based on the previous three occurrences, this likely won't happen. He hasn't had a second one during the same season and the Wizards held him out a couple of weeks longer this time compared to his last one. And this reaction was the smallest of the four. As long as he doesn't develop a season-ending stress fracture, he should be just fine. Beal, as CSNmidatlantic.com reported to be roughly 35 before he returned, said he "probably" would have to have his maximum minutes played capped to protect him long-term. His less three stress reactions have been preceded by a spike in minutes for long stretches. Keeping him to 35 is not a huge adjustment. Beal was averaging 36.5 minutes before his injury but his usage was rising at an alarming rate. He had seven consecutive games leading up to the re-injury when he played a minimum of 38 minutes. The Wizards have the depth and scoring options (Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal, Kelly Oubre) to compensate. To make the situation more manageable for coach Randy Wittman, bringing Beal off the bench makes this easier. Beal, of course, clearly wants to start again. 

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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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