Wednesday afternoon, ESPN cap analyst Bobby Marks tweeted one of the weirdest, insane, and utterly impressive contract minutiae revealed since the start of the NBA’s offseason: Wizards guardian Bradley Bealwho had just been given $251 million in reasons to stay with the Wizards, has a no-trade clause in his new contract.
To get one, you need eight seasons under your belt and four consecutive years with the team offering it. By pointshere are all the players who have already had a no-trade clause in their contract: LeBron James (during his second stint with the Cavaliers), Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and John Stockton.
Beal qualified. The wizards nodded.
Before the knives come out detailing why this is so ridiculous, it has to be said that very few players can say they stayed with the same team long enough to qualify. And a few that don’t are simply victims of bad timing. (Damian Lillard, for example, could have a no-trade clause if, instead of signing a four-year maximum extension in 2019, he waited until the end of the season – which was his eighth – to sign a new maximum with the Blazers.)
To underscore how rare they truly are: Steph Curry could have had one when he signed his max five-year contract in 2017. At the time, he was 29, enduring, transcendent, two-time MVP, four times All-Star and had just led his team to three straight Finals appearances. The Warriors still haven’t given him a no-trade clause; Curry also didn’t get a fifth-year player option, which Beal and most stars do. (Beal’s is worth around $60 million in 2027.)
Meanwhile, Beal is coming off a season that was cut short by wrist surgery in February. His wizards finished with eight more losses than the 10-seeded Hornets and missed the playoffs for the fifth time in Beal’s 10 seasons. He also just turned 29 and was a three-time All-Star. In 2021, he cracked his first All-NBA team. He’s a very good attack on his own, someone who can thrive both with the ball in his hands and away from it, darting on pindowns, wrapping around dribbling hand-offs, performing pick and rolls and spacing the floor.
When healthy (which, to his credit, Beal usually is), you can only count the number of scorers who attack with more grace and scale for one thing. It gets to the line, finishes at the rim and is more at home in the midrange than in its own living room. The handle is disgusting. Volcanic malleability is what makes Beal so appealing in the league and why the Wizards felt they had to keep him happy long after a breakup started to make sense.
There’s now several years of evidence that suggests this team can’t build a winner around him. The franchise let their franchise player down but the franchise player refused to go. So instead of hitting free agency when his first five-year maximum contract expired, in 2019 Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension as John Wall battled injuries on his own mega-deal. catastrophic. Then Russell Westbrook came in as a temporary band-aid that solved zero overall dilemmas. Then Westbrook was traded for a bunch of roleplayers.
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At this point in his career, still without a proper support system as the face of a perpetually restless organization that has never really stopped splashing its arms, Beal’s five-year maximum is that anticlimactic mark of desperation. , an appendix that both parties have resigned themselves to accept.
Now, on top of that, he’s the only active NBA player whose front office needs permission to pick up the phone and say his name, which raises some questions and fair criticism. What leverage did Beal really have to get such a crippling amendment inserted into his deal? Was he really going to walk away from a $251 million pact to take $64.9 million less from someone else? (A max contract anywhere else would have been $186.1 million over four years.) What does the Wizards’ path to the playoffs look like? How can a respectable post-season streak – for someone who recently said, “I want to play at the end of June” – happen anytime soon?
Beal is one of the older players on a roster who has no top-notch prospects on the upside. Kristaps Porzingis – who the Wizards acquired for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans – is probably their second-best player. They won’t have meaningful cap space for a few years — when Beal might start looking for greener grass — and won’t be able to trade a first-round pick until 2028.
Washington would have been well advised to call its bluff, because this deal was already quite prohibitive not to justify a benefit that is almost never granted for completely understandable reasons. Most relevant being – apologies for screaming – WIZARDS ARE EVIL AND VERY LIKELY TO TRADE BRADLEY BEAL ONE DAY! And when that day comes, they’re pretty much guaranteed not to get the best package possible, because Beal can turn down any destination he doesn’t like, seriously undermining Washington’s grip in any negotiation.
In other words, the Wizards just made someone who never reached the conference finals and last won a playoff series in 2017 the NBA’s most powerful player. Instead of trading it for loot and embarking on a real rebuild, they’ve caved in under the weight of their own futile obsession with the fringes of relevance that someone ostensibly talented opens the door to. The writing was on the wall many years ago. Anyone could read it except Washington owner Ted Leonsis, who has long equated rebuilding with indignity.
Now, some might call Beal’s contract the worst in the league, but that characterization seems too general (and insulting to a guy who’s averaged over 30 points per game two years in a row). Instead, few are more disruptive, as the team that came up with it was too narrow-minded to detect the other hands they needed to play.
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