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Wizards' Bradley Beal keeping it real about potential supermax deal

Wizards' Bradley Beal keeping it real about potential supermax deal

WASHINGTON -- Bradley Beal’s future is up for debate. The All-NBA candidate is playing out both sides publicly.

The Washington Wizards’ leading scorer just completed his seventh and most dominant NBA season. His current contract extends two more years. Beal made it clear he would be down with sticking around far longer.

“If I can, I would 100 percent die in that Wizards jersey,” Beal said during a podcast interview this season with Yahoo’s Chris Haynes.

The shooting guard’s success – and mindset – might prevent the relationship from going the distance.

Beal was selected to a second consecutive All-Star appearance this season, one in which he became the first player in franchise history to average 25 points, five rebounds and five assists. An all-NBA selection might be on deck and with it, the possibility to sign a four-year, $194 million supermax extension this summer.

The staggering amount -- $48.5 million per season – seems like the obvious no brainer scenario. It’s not, Beal claims.

The Wizards’ 2018-19 season went off the rails and quickly. After dropping nine of its first 11 games, Washington finished 32-50, its most losses since the 2012-13 season, Beal’s rookie campaign.

Blame injuries, but even owner Ted Leonsis acknowledged he “didn’t like the way that we were playing” before the games lost number escalated. Leonsis offered that perspective shortly after the team announced the firing of team president Ernie Grunfeld after 16 seasons.

That’s one massive change. More are coming of all sizes. The Wizards are searching for a new general manager. Several members of the current roster enter free agency this summer, meaning the next front office leader could dramatically reshape the playing pieces.

With so many moving parts, Beal claims he won’t rush into any decisions should he become eligible for the supermax deal and the Wizards offer.

“I have to think about it first,” Beal said in the waning days of the season. “Obviously, that’s a lot of money, and I have a lot of money now, so money’s not the problem or the question. “I wanna be able to know that we’re going in the right direction in the future,” Beal said.

Beal signed a five-year, $127.1 million max contract in 2016 after completing his four-year, $18.6 rookie deal. Those numbers make ATM visits joyous occasions. It also offers options and helps with patience should the Wizards extend a supermax offer.

John Wall, the Wizards’ other All-Star guard, could miss the majority if not all of the 2019-20 season after undergoing surgery for a ruptured Achilles in February. Whether Wall returns next season or not, his four-year, $170 million supermax contract kicks in. Beal signing his supermax improves his financial world but it ensures the Wizards become salary cap-strapped once the deals overlap. That eventual reality would limit long-term planning earlier.

Will the new GM offer a creative roster-building solution? Does Wall return at his All-Star form or a rung or two below? What are the other changes and how do they mesh with the playing timeline for Beal as he turns 26 in June?

“Obviously, this is where I wanna be. Everybody knows that. Ted knows that. … And everybody in this organization knows it,” Beal said. “Obviously, if the situation comes, that’s a blessing in itself, but it’s not just an easy answer to make. Everybody will probably be like, ‘Yo! You’d be out of your mind!’ But when you’re thinking about your future and your career and the legacy that you wanna live, you wanna be a winner at the end of the day and do whatever it takes to do that.”

None of this means Beal, selected by the Wizards third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, would bolt.

“It’s beyond just what I know. I love this city. I embrace being here. I love the team. I love being able to be the face of an organization, alongside with John too,” Beal said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I hear that from other guys, too, and we see it all the time in the league.”

The decision, should the All-NBA nod occur, isn’t one-sided. The Wizards must offer the deal. Unless Tommy Sheppard, serving as the interim general manager, gets the gig, the new GM won’t have any emotional attachment to Beal. Choices become more black and white especially with all those greenbacks in play, and Beal’s trade value red-hot.

“[The] new GM could probably have a totally different agenda on his hands,” said Beal, who will be a sounding board for Leonsis this off-season. “But at the same time, I’m gonna keep the same mindset. This is where I wanna be, regardless of who comes in. If it’s offered to me, I’ll sit down with my family and my agent and try to figure it out.”

Despite the frustrating season, Beal kept his competitive spirit throughout. “He's always stayed the same leader that he was at the beginning of the year,” rookie Troy Brown Jr. said. “He's never changed. He's always been positive.”

Those positive vibes helped the Wizards find some steadier footing as the season progressed while Beal advanced his All-NBA candidacy. The organization’s future, even if ultimately bright, is uncertain for now. Speculation involving Beal wanting out when his current deal expires existed during the season. Maybe such thoughts, if accurate, fade with $194 million – unless money alone doesn’t equal happiness or the Wizards don’t make the supermax offer.

“It’s a chess game,” Beal said. “It’s just being smart with every move I make and trusting my gut and listening to my family and what they wanna do as well. And when the time comes, I’ll cross that bridge.”

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Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin: Pistons' stars that could hurt the Wizards, or not play at all

Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin: Pistons' stars that could hurt the Wizards, or not play at all

Washington has dropped seven of their last eight games and their schedule doesn't lighten up by any means in the near future. Detroit has won three of their last four games with their most recent victory coming in Houston as they defeated the Rockets without C Andre Drummond, and F Blake Griffin exiting the game early with a knee injury. 

In desperate need of a win here’s who Wizards' fans and players should keep their eyes on.

Blake Griffin, maybe?

Season stats: 16.4 pts, 4.6 reb, 3.3 ast

Griffin didn't play in Detroit's early November loss to the Wizards due to continued soreness in his knee and hamstring, and it's quite possible he doesn't play in this matchup either for the same reason. Griffin tallied 15 minutes in the first half of the Pistons 115-107 victory over the Houston Rockets Saturday, but only had 2 points on 0-for-7 shooting to show for it. After halftime, Griffin didn't return and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with knee soreness once again. In the month of December, he's averaging 19.7 points on 42.9% shooting and 5.1 rebounds. 

Washington's bigs have struggled mightily with injuries, which has subsequently hampered their paint defense -- One of the reasons why the Memphis Grizzlies scored 70 of their 128 total points down low last game vs the Wizards. Washington will most likely be without Moe Wagner once again who's struggling with an ankle injury and Thomas Bryant who's recovering from a stress reaction in his foot. 

Luke Kennard

Season stats: 16.2 pts, 3.4 reb, 4.1 ast

The Pistons leading scorer the last time these two teams faced off (24 points, 6-12 FG, 3-4 3P FG), Kennard has been a pleasant surprise for Detroit this season. He's averaging career-bests in nearly every category while maintaining his efficiency from deep. Last season Kennard averaged: 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists in 22.8 minutes per game, he may quietly have a case for most improved player and possibly sixth man of the year. 

Markieff Morris

Season stats: 10.6 points, 4.0  reb, 1.5 ast

If Blake Griffin can't go, Markieff Morris is the next man up. In the first meeting (which I inexplicably deemed the 'Keef revenge game' prior to tip-off) Morris had a lackluster 4 points on 2-for-4 shooting. However, in the last two games, he's averaging 15.5 points on 57.1% shooting from the field as well as 54.5% from 3-point range. He'll be looking for revenge for sure. 

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Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

Which team is closer to contention: the Wizards or Grizzlies?

While watching the Wizards take on another rebuilding team, as they did on Saturday night in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, it's only natural to compare the stages of those respective rebuilds and wonder which team is closer. That may be an even more interesting question with a game like Saturday's that matched the Wizards against a team doing things a decidedly different way.

In a sense, the Wizards are where the Grizzlies were last season. Memphis had unexpectedly bottomed out the year before, enough to land Jaren Jackson Jr. in the draft. And, like the Wizards this year, they were holding onto their core veterans, in their case Mike Conley Jr. and Marc Gasol.

But the Grizzlies didn't bounce back into playoff contention like they had hoped and ended up trading both Gasol and Conley, and arguably too late. The Wizards wish to avoid that fate with Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Neither the Wizards (7-17) or Grizzlies (9-17) are a good team right now and both would like to be back in the playoff mix sooner than later, maybe even next year. So, who is closer?

The Grizzlies have the more impressive young core with Jackson and Ja Morant. Both are just 20 years old and they each look like future All-Stars, if not All-NBA talents.

Jackson is averaging 17.6 points and 1.2 blocks while shooting 40 percent from three on six attempts per game. He's a two-way unicorn who can make plays like a guard and has potential to become an elite rim protector.

Morant is the early favorite for rookie of the year, averaging 18.7 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from long range. He has future star written all over him with a game reminiscent of a young Wall or Russell Westbrook.

The Grizzlies appear to have hit on their high draft picks, but have also nailed later ones, the type of moves that separate the best front offices. Brandon Clarke, the 21st pick this past June, looks like a steal. And Dillon Brooks, a second round pick in 2017, is a solid young player.

But the Wizards also have an emerging young core with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner. None of them are as good as Jackson or Morant, but they are good players on the rise. And, most importantly, the Wizards have Beal.

While Jackson and Morant could someday be stars, Beal already is one and he's signed long-term. Potential is a commodity in the NBA, but nothing is guaranteed for young teams and young players. Just look at the Bulls and Hawks this season.

Now, the Grizzlies do have something the Wizards would absolutely love to have and that is real financial flexibility. They have close to $70 million in salary coming off the books this summer and have the second-lowest payroll committed for next season of any team in the NBA, second only to Atlanta.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are strapped with Wall's supermax contract which, depending on how he returns from a torn Achilles, could be an albatross for years to come. Though cap space doesn't mean the Grizzlies will be able to lure free agents, as Memphis has never been mistaken for a prime destination, but it's a preferable spot to be in. Wall's deal may prevent the Wizards from keeping players they would otherwise re-sign, when Memphis should have no such problem.

So, so far we have the Grizzlies with a better young nucleus and a much better salary cap situation. The Wizards, though, have the proven star and may have two if Wall returns to form.

But here's what may give the Wizards the edge, or at least secure a push. The Grizzlies have to give one of their next two first round picks to Boston by way of a 2015 trade. It is top-6 protected this year and unprotected in 2021 if it doesn't convey this June. That could be a major problem for a team trying to build through the draft.

Also, the Wizards are lucky to be in the Eastern Conference. Though the Grizzlies geographically should be in the East, they remain in the West which has been the superior conference basically since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls.

There is, of course, no definitive answer to the root question of this analysis. The easiest way to settle it would be to say the Grizzlies have a higher ceiling at this point because of Morant and Jackson, but the Wizards probably have the more likely path to the playoffs next season, given they play in the East and have two guys with a track record of getting there.

But as we compare the teams, keep in mind what Memphis wanted to do and what they ended up doing in terms of trading their veteran stars. The Wizards don't want to take their rebuild that far, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. Just ask the Grizzlies.

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