The NBA is planning to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando on July 31 with 22 teams, including the 16 teams that are currently in the playoff picture, plus six teams that are hoping to make a run for the No. 8 seed in their respective conferences. The lone non-playoff team from the Eastern Conference that will make the trip Walt Disney World next month is the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards are 5.5 games back of the No. 8 seed Orlando Magic, and with just eight games remaining on their regular season schedule, it’s unlikely that they’ll catch them. However, the Wizards are still somewhat of a draw because of their star shooting guard Bradley Beal.
This season, Beal has made the jump from All-Star to superstar, averaging a career-high 30.5 points per game on 45.5% shooting from the field, including 35.3% shooting from behind the arc. He’s also averaged 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. He’s good, and the Wizards are bad, which has apparently led some teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers, to inquire about his availability.
During an appearance on the “Load Management” podcast, Shams Charania of The Athletic revealed that the Lakers were one of a few teams to ask the Wizards about a trade for Beal, but it doesn’t sound like talks have gone incredibly far (emphasis mine):
“At the end of the day it’s going to be up to Bradley Beal. Because they’re ultimately going to offer him the supermax contract that they can offer, and he’s going to have to make a decision on whether the Wizards are the right fit moving forward. There are several teams, you can say that about all 29 teams, you know ‘we’re interested.’ You can literally... New Orleans was a team that I’d heard last year had looked into it. All 29 teams across the league, if you’re trying to win games — The Lakers, at different points, they’ve had interest in Beal — if you’re trying to win basketball games, you’re going to have interest in Bradley Beal.
“I mean, [the Nets] have the pieces theoretically to make a competitive trade. So if Bradley Beal were to become available, I could see that. But again, there are other teams out there too... The Heat were a team as well that had interest. The Heat, the Lakers, New Orleans, those were the teams that I’ve heard.”
While that could change between now and October, when the Wizards will be able to take calls for Beal again, it doesn’t sound like Beal will be the one asking out of Washington:
“But everything he’s said so far (is) he wants to stay a Wizard. The Wizards have said they want to keep him. I don’t expect something on him until we see John Wall and Bradley Beal play again. And so depending on how that goes, could Bradley Beal look at it if John Wall returned to peak performance and say ‘you know what? I like where we’re headed here, I want to commit.’ For sure. But could he also look at it like ‘we’re not looking like a team that’s going anywhere, even with John back, I want to see what else is out there’? I could see both scenarios.”
For our sake, we’re going to assume that the Wizards reconsider their stance on Beal (or vice versa) this offseason, and he’s made available. In that case, what would it take for the Lakers to acquire him? From a financial standpoint, almost everything.
Beal is set to make $28.7 million during the 2020-21 season, so, in order to match Beal’s salary, the Lakers would have to send out Danny Green’s $15.3 million salary, Kyle Kuzma’s $3.5 million salary and Quinn Cook’s $3 million salary just to get within striking distance. Then, they’d have to hope that one or all of Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope exercise the second year of their contracts. Including any one of them would make the money work.
Would the Lakers be willing to give up Green, Kuzma, Cook, JaVale McGee, and another asset like Talen Horton-Tucker or their 2020 first-round pick with the knowledge that they’d strapped for cash in free agency? If the answer to that question is no, they should start to do some soul-searching before it’s too late.
Beal is an absolute stud, and he’s only 26 years old, so he’d be a perfect No. 2 option to Anthony Davis once LeBron James retired. He’s also under contract through the 2021-22 season, so the Lakers would get at least one season of Davis, Beal and Giannis Antetokou — sorry, I’m doing that thing where I assume Giannis has already committed to signing with the Lakers again.
What is less of a certainty is whether or not the Wizards would accept a package like that from the Lakers. Sure, Kuzma and Horton-Tucker are intriguing prospects, but if they’re going to trade a player of Beal’s caliber, it will likely be for someone who is shoe-in to make an All-Star game at least once in their careers.
Never say never, but Beal to L.A. seems like a pipe dream right now.