LeBron James is coming to town. Normally the focus remains with the four-time MVP whenever he makes an appearance. Those looking beyond Sunday’s Lakers-Wizards meeting in Washington might split their concentration. Think trade.
The Wizards (11-17) are still trying for a foothold after early-season wobbles. Now 9-8 since a 2-9 start, they enter Friday’s game at Brooklyn having lost three in a row. The notion of adding help or breaking up the band exists. There are also salary cap concerns going forward.
Possible trade partners vary, but the Lakers may target All-Star level help to pair with James. The rumor mill is aware of those factors and constantly churning out ideas typically involving John Wall or Bradley Beal. All will take the court together this weekend.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith offered his own Washington-centric take to NBC Sports Washington following Wednesday’s Celtics-Wizards overtime thriller.
“You have to trade Bradley Beal,” Smith said.
“The reason why you have to trade Bradley Beal is he’s three years younger (than Wall), he’s got two years less left on his contract, and if you scour the league every executive will tell you he’s the higher commodity because John Wall’s game is predicated on athleticism and speed and conditioning. Usually, father time says that dissipates, which means you’re going to lower in value.”
Wall’s four-year, $170 million contract extension begins next season. Beal, 25, signed a five-year, $128 million contract in 2016. Otto Porter is the highest paid player on the roster this season ($26.011 million). His deal includes a player option for the 2020-21 season.
Those salary numbers combined with production shines a light on Beal.
“He’s a shooter in a game where shooting is incredibly important in this day and age,” Smith said of Beal. “His value will only elevate. The fact is with Wall the perception is there’s a bad contract. In Porter, the perception is there’s a bad contract. In Beal, no one has called it a bad contract.
“So when you look at it from that perspective, he’s the guy that you may need to move in order to acquire the attributes that you need in order to make this team better down the line or at least get enough cap space so you can somewhat start over because you’re not going to get anybody to take John Wall’s contract right now.”
The Lakers may seek immediate help with the West wide open beyond the dominate Warriors. They also may not want to add long-term money or trade potential player assets including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Josh Hart. Los Angeles is expected to make plays for headliners Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard this summer.
As for the Wizards, reports of potential deals does not mean the team is actively shopping Wall and Beal or even considering such moves. Washington, Boston, and Philadelphia are the only Eastern Conference teams with at least two All-Stars from last season. If the Wizards are going to rally, those are the types of players needed. Does such thinking change if 11-17 turns into 22-28 as the Feb. 7 trade approaches? We’ll see.
All we know for sure is that James and crew will be in Chinatown Sunday night. We should probably just focus on that. Good luck with that.
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