WASHINGTON -- The biggest question for the Washington Wizards before the trade deadline remains their most pressing one after it has passed, that being the future of star guard Bradley Beal. Exactly how the flurry of trades they made on Thursday will affect their effort to keep him, only time will tell.
What we do know is the Wizards want to keep him. What they did at the deadline, evidently, was part of their strategy for doing that.
Assuming Beal was in mind as the front office reworked the roster, they could view Kristaps Porzingis as an upgrade at center and another core piece alongside Kyle Kuzma and Beal, if he comes back. They shipped out Spencer Dinwiddie, who was a questionable fit alongside Beal in the backcourt. And by getting rid of Dinwiddie's contract and that of Davis Bertans, the Wizards have more cap flexibility long-term.
Those are selling points they could bring to the table this summer. They may not have drastically changed their long-term prospects, but they can argue progress was made nonetheless.
The Wizards have roughly five months before free agency opens and it's decision time for Beal. In the meantime, the draft lottery and draft will take place. Where the Wizards select will impact the team they can assemble this offseason.
Beal turns 29 in June and will have to decide whether he wants to re-sign with the Wizards for the biggest possible contract, or leave, potentially for a better chance to win. The Wizards can offer him a contract projected to be about $241 million over five years, while other teams can put roughly $181 million over four years on the table.
Can Beal get the best of both worlds in Washington? That remains a matter of debate, as the Wizards just overhauled their roster in what is shaping up to be a disappointing season overall. They have no obvious path towards contention at the moment and may have to once again pitch Beal on their plans for the future rather than realized, tangible results.
The other option for the Wizards would be to blow it up and rebuild, a route they have been unwilling to take for years. Bringing in Porzingis wouldn't signify a rebuild on the face of it, but getting off Dinwiddie and Bertans' contracts could help that cause.
Hitting the reset button this summer would probably look something like this: trade Porzingis and Kuzma for picks and young players, then either let Beal walk or get what you can in a sign-and-trade. Beal, of course, could essentially force them into it if he really wants to leave.
If the plan moves forward and the Wizards continue to build around Beal, they will know where to start. Point guard is now a glaring need after they traded away Dinwiddie and also Aaron Holiday. They have veterans Raul Neto and Ish Smith, but no long-term solution at the position.
Dinwiddie was supposed to be that guy for the next several years. Searching for a point guard was unfamiliar territory for the Wizards until last summer with John Wall and Russell Westbrook holding down that spot. Now they are back to square one.
The 2022 draft class isn't particularly deep at the point guard position. The best option would be Jaden Ivey of Purdue, but he appears to be a top-4 pick and it's unlikely the Wizards select that high. Other projected first-round picks include TyTy Washington of Kentucky, Kennedy Chandler of Tennessee and Blake Wesley of Notre Dame.
Free agency could include Cavs guard Collin Sexton, who would be restricted. Technically, Kyrie Irving could be available if he opts out with the Nets. Other possible free agents would include Westbrook and Wall, though both seem like extreme longshots for returns with the Wizards.
One other domino effect of Thursday's deals would be an increased likelihood Thomas Bryant comes back. He is due to be an unrestricted free agent, but with Montrezl Harrell now gone, the Wizards have more reason to keep him. That is, depending on how he fits into the rotation with Daniel Gafford already signed and Porzingis being a big man.
Barring a change of direction towards a rebuild, the Wizards appear to be forming their latest pitch for Beal to stay. Right now, that includes Porzingis as a centerpiece. Either way, after many changes took place on Thursday, many more likely lie ahead.