Why the Wizards Are Playing It Smart By Waiting to Give Bradley Beal a Max Contract
The Washington Wizards have gone from dormant cellar-dwellers to perennial Eastern Conference contenders seemingly overnight and a big catalyst for their shift in trajectory has been the arrival of shooting guard Bradley Beal
The Wizards boast a 90-74 mark, to the tune of .548 winning percentage over the last two seasons since Beal has taken over as the full-time starter alongside John Wall, and that regular season success has even translated into postseason success for a franchise that had seen only one postseason series win in the last decade before this most recent run.
Beal has become everything that a modern day franchise can want in a high-end draft pick. At 6'5", he has prototypical size for his position of shooting guard. He has demonstrated, at a young age, that he is ready for the rigors that come with the life of a professional athlete. By all accounts Beal is a hard worker in honing his craft, and also has managed to stay out of controversy, when many of his millennial professional athlete peers succumb to the pitfalls of living life in the lime light in the 21st century news cycle.
As glowing of a report that can be made about Beal off the court, his on-court scouting report is what actually gives the Wizards cause for concern with handing out a max contract to Beal just two years after shelling out big cash for Wall, the team's All-Star point guard.
But that only tells half the story.
Beal By the Numbers
Beal finished last regular season as the 94th ranked player according to our nERD metric, which indicates how many wins a player adds to a team as a starter over 82 games, with a nERD of -1.5. nERD is similar to Win Shares, but while Win Shares indicate how a player has impacted a team, nERD indicates how a player would affect a squad over a full, 82-game season -- based on efficiency.
Part of Beal's problems stem from from his offensive role on this Washington squad, he has established himself as a premiere 3-point shooter in the NBA by knocking down 40.9 percent of his shots from deep (ranked 13th in the NBA), but the problem is that he only took 259 attempts in 2015 (ranking him 70th in the NBA).
If Beal can manage to have better shot selection going forward it will likely increase his overall offensive efficiency. 27.7% of Beal's shot attempts come from 16 feet to the 3-point line, but he only shoots 33% on those shots as opposed to 40.9% from deep.
Additionally, the Wizards had to be at least a little disappointed with Beal's regression from his second season to his third season. After the 2013-14 season, Beal's name was entering into the conversation of best shooting guards in the NBA with splits of 17.1 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game, and 3.3 assists per game during the regular season. He even saw an increase in those numbers to 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in a dominant postseason run in which he out dueled Jimmy Butler and Lance Stephenson
To come back in 2014-15 and log splits of 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists is a definitely a disappointment to his development, but again, Beal saw an even larger uptick in production for the playoffs.
In the 2015 playoffs Beal had an increased role due to the fact that Wall missed a good portion of the Atlanta Hawks series due to a broken wrist. His Usage Rate of 26.7% in the playoffs was up from the 22.5% from the regular season, and that led to him averaging 23.4 points, 4.7 boards, and 4.0 assists.
Playoff Bradley Beal has indeed proven to be the real deal.
The biggest concern for Beal going forward has to be his propensity for wearing nice suits, not a jersey on game day.
In Beal's first three NBA seasons, he has missed a combined 54 of 246 possible regular season games. It is hard for the Wizards to say that they can rely on a player who is unavailable for over 20% of game action due to lower leg injuries.
Maybe Beal will grow out of getting hurt so frequently as he grows into his grown body, the same way that a once injury riddled John Wall did.
Why It Makes Sense Financially for the Wizards to Wait
With Kevin Durant, a Washington D.C. area native, likely entering free agency in 2016, the Wizards have fully committed to positioning themselves to make a run at the former league MVP next summer. If the Wizards were to give Beal a max contract extension before the October 31st deadline, he would have a cap hold of $20.9 million, but if they were to remain idle on Beal's contract status he would only have a cap hold of $14.2 million once he hits restricted free agency.
Every dollar counts when it comes to creating cap space not only to sign Durant but also to field a decent roster around him, so it only makes sense to go into next summer with all of the resources available.
Beal has proven to be a very interesting young asset in the association but has yet to show the overall consistency and efficiency that would make him a no-brainer max contract candidate. The Wizards are not dire under any pressure to give him this extension because they can match any outside offer he receives next season.
Beal can help out his own situation by betting on himself and allowing his playoff growth to translate to regular season results.