In less than three months, the Wizards will arrive at a crossroads with Bradley Beal's contract future, but team president Tommy Sheppard is confident in where things stand between the two sides.
While Beal essentially declined the team's contract offer in October, as all he had to do was wait to earn more money, he also indicated in February he is leaning toward staying. Sheppard doesn't expect to know Beal's official answer until free agency opens in July, but does not seem to be very worried he will leave.
"With the way that the NBA calendar is set up, we can't do anything earlier than July 1. I can just go off of 10 years of a relationship with him. I think he feels comfortable here, we certainly feel comfortable with him here. It's a good fit," Sheppard said.
While Beal can't officially agree to a new contract until July, having some sort of assurance would be helpful for the Wizards, who in many ways have to plan their offseason around him. He is not only their best and most accomplished player, he could account for as much as 35% of the salary cap on his next contract. Beal is eligible to sign a five-year deal worth upwards of a projected $245 million.
Beal missed the final 2 1/2 months of the 2021-22 season due to a left wrist injury, but was able to watch from the sidelines what his potential supporting cast could look like next year. Former All-Star Kristaps Porzingis was acquired at the trade deadline and played well down the stretch. So did their young players; namely Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Daniel Gafford and Corey Kispert.
Sheppard sees mutual interest with Beal in continuing their partnership.
"I feel every indication he's given me is that he wants to be here moving forward. I stick to the 10 years of confidence I have in the relationship we've had. It's a lot of time, a lot of equity and a lot of conversations. I feel that we've shown this is a place we can build around him. I think he's shown to the community here that when he's healthy he's one of the best players at his position. Those are hard to come by," Sheppard said.
Beal still has a cast on his left wrist, which was injured in a January 29 game against the Grizzlies. Beal tried to take a charge against Memphis guard Ja Morant and was injured by the fall.
Beal is days away from getting pins removed from the wrist, Sheppard says, and from there he can begin rehabbing the injury. Sheppard believes the way things went this past season, when Beal's numbers were down and he only appeared in 40 games, will motivate him moving forward.
"I see stuff about Bradley and I kind of wonder, my goodness, are we talking about the same player? He's a special player, one of the best at his position in the NBA... It's not a revenge tour or anything like that, but he wants to reassert that 'Hey, I'm one of the top players in the league,'" Sheppard said.
It was just 11 months ago Beal finished the 2020-21 season as the leading scorer in the Eastern Conference for the second straight year. Sheppard and the Wizards believe he's a lot closer to that guy than the one we saw this past season, and it sounds like Beal is ready to prove that in a Washington uniform.