Beal says trade deadline is affecting Wizards, but are they unique?


WASHINGTON -- Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal garnered some attention on Thursday for his comments to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller, as Beal addressed what is ailing the team in the short-term while also sharing his thoughts on how making the play-in tournament would represent a "step back" in the long-term.

When it comes to their immediate issues, Beal mentioned the trade deadline and how guys playing for their own business interests is having an effect on the team overall.

"It's tough. I feel like we- it's not just one thing you can pinpoint and I think that's the larger issue in the grand scheme of things. We have a goal and the direction we're trying to move towards, but we're kind of hindered in the process of that with the deadline coming up and making proper adjustments on the team. And I was just thinking about this last night, but it's very tough to kind of be one foot in, one foot out as a player, if you know you're possibly being traded, if your minutes are being skewed, if you don't know when your opportunity comes and you feel like if you are out there, you have to kind of press and kind of showcase what you can do in the minutes that you have," Beal said.

"So, it's a tough balance. It is really a tough balance. And I think a lot of people don't understand that it's tough on players. Like, I'm not necessarily in that position and I'm blessed to be where I am. But a lot of my teammates are fighting for minutes. They're fighting for a spot, they're fighting for survival in a lot of ways, trying not to be traded, trying to stay in the league, trying to get another contract. So, I get it from the business standpoint and it's tough to manage that from different roles because everybody has a different agenda in a way. So, I think it's, you know, once we have a committed group to what's important and winning, then I think that's what's going to change."

A collection of Wizards fans rightfully pointed out this isn't the first time we've heard this sentiment about the team. Wizards' former point guard John Wall is among those who have lamented that dynamic in the past.

The theory is that too many players on expiring deals or playing for contract extensions create diverging interests when a team needs to play as one. In this particular case, there is some irony because even though Beal separates himself from the group given his previous career earnings, he too is playing for a contract with the ability to opt-out of his 2022-23 salary to seek a new deal this summer.

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. was asked at Thursday's practice about the trade deadline and what he can do to make sure it doesn't negatively affect the team.

"You have to address it and understand it’s a real dynamic, I’m not going to gloss over it. It can affect a lot of people. We still have a job to do. We have to stay present in the moment, we have to say connected as a group. And if there’s a change, that’s just life, it’s business. It’s a tough part of this business, but it can’t affect what we’re doing at this moment," Unseld Jr. said.

Perhaps the obvious question here is whether the Wizards are alone or in any way unique, if anxiety over the trade deadline is indeed holding them back. In fact, if you base it purely on expiring contracts, they are near the top of the league.

Going by Spotrac's list, the Wizards are tied for seventh in the NBA for the most expiring contracts at eight. Now, the total number is skewed a bit by the inclusion of two-way contracts, but that's the case for every team so it still represents an accurate snapshot for comparison's sake.

What the total number doesn't account for, however, is the importance of each player to each team. For instance, the fact key rotation players on the Wizards like Beal, Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant are playing for contracts is more significant than the fact Anthony Gill and Aaron Holiday are also in that category.

The six teams with more expiring contracts than the Wizards are the Lakers (15), Nets (12), Blazers (10), Warriors (9), Bucks (9) and Heat (9). What's interesting about that group is that four of the six teams are contenders. While the Lakers are a circus, the Blazers are the only one that is well below .500.

The Warriors and Heat feature mostly fringe role players among their expiring deals. The Nets, though, technically have both James Harden and Kyrie Irving in that category, as well as other important players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills.

So, really it's a bit of a gray area. While the Wizards do rank in the top quarter of the league in terms of most expiring contracts, there are better teams than them in the same boat and it doesn't seem to be holding them back.

Let's circle back to one key part of what Beal said. At the very end of his answer, he expressed hope the issue will be fixed once the deadline passes and not just because that period of time will be behind them.

"I think it's, you know, once we have a committed group to what's important and winning, then I think that's what's going to change," he said.

As Beal seems to suggest, the Wizards could rectify the problem with trades. Given Beal has an influence on the front office, that seems like something to keep in mind as Feb. 10 approaches.