Breaking Down Bradley Beal's 2-Year Extension With The Wizards
On Thursday morning, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped one of his patented #WojBombs: Bradley Beal has agreed to sign a two-year, $72 million extension with the Washington Wizards ahead of the Oct. 21 deadline.
As a result, Beal is "not eligible to be traded until after the 2019-20 season because the first year of his extension is greater than 5% from his 2020-21 salary," according to ESPN's Bobby Marks. That means he's stuck in Washington until at least July 2020, for better or worse.
Why would Beal agree to punt a year of his prime on a rebuilding Wizards team? There's more to this extension than meets the eye.
According to Wojnarowski, Beal's new deal includes a player option for the 2022-23 season. In other words, he tacked only one extra guaranteed year onto his current contract, which was set to expire following the 2020-21 season.
Heading into the summer of 2022, Beal will have 10 years of NBA service under his belt, which will make him eligible to sign a maximum contract with a starting salary worth 35% of that year's salary cap. Based on current projections, that would allow him to sign the largest contract in league history-five years and $266 million, according to Wojnarowski.
From Beal's perspective, this deal may have bridged the gap between long-term financial security and ensuring he can maximize his future earning potential.
Beal could have turned down an extension this fall to see if he made an All-NBA team this season, which would have made him eligible for a five-year, $235.5 million supermax extension next summer. However, the Wizards are likely to finish with one of the league's worst records, which might have been held against Beal in All-NBA voting regardless of his individual excellence.
Even if Beal did make an All-NBA team and became eligible for a supermax next summer, there's no guarantee the Wizards would have offered such a deal. They already have John Wall signed to a four-year supermax extension, and the early returns on that might have scared them away from committing such a large proportion of their salary cap to their backcourt.
Wall's recent experience might have been a cautionary tale for Beal, too.
Fresh off four straight All-Star Game nods, Wall signed his four-year, $171.1 million supermax in July 2017. He wound up missing 41 games during the 2017-18 season, largely because of a balky knee, and played only 32 games this past year before a heel injury-and later a ruptured Achilles-sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Wall is now expected to miss most (if not all) of the 2019-20 campaign, and it remains to be seen whether he can recapture his old form upon his return to the court. Had he declined an extension in July 2017 and bet on himself, he might be earning a fraction of what he is right now, as he told reporters in early August.
"At the end of the day, you never know. You can sign an extension like I signed an extension and then an injury can happen or something years later," he said. "I talk about it every day, man. Sometimes you can bank on yourself, but sometimes it's not good to bank on yourself. I had the opportunity where if I didn't want to sign, I could have waited one more year and tried to make All-NBA again. It's very tough. You've only got like seven guys that are going to make All-NBA every year. So, I was like 'if they offer me the extension, I'm gonna sign it.'"
Fellow Wizards point guard Isaiah Thomas is another example of how a player can go from dreaming of a Brink's truck to playing on one-year minimum deals in the blink of an eye. By signing this extension, Beal has now protected himself against the worst-case scenario of a career-altering injury.
If calamity does strike, Beal can pick up his 2022-23 player option and guarantee himself an extra $72 million that he otherwise wouldn't have had in his back pocket. If he stays healthy and remains a star-caliber player, he can turn down his player option and hit free agency in 2022 as one of the most desirable options on the market.
Considering how loaded the 2021 free-agent class is shaping up to be-Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo and Rudy Gobert will all hit the market that summer, and LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Blake Griffin and Jrue Holiday can join them by declining their respective 2021-22 player options-it may behoove Beal to stave off free agency for one more year. Rather than having to wait out suitors vying for Antetokounmpo (if not James, Leonard and George as well), he's shaping up as one of the top free-agent targets in 2022.
In the meantime, he'll be the focal point of a Wizards team severely lacking in top-tier talent, which should allow him to put up bananas numbers. He finished with a career-high 25.6 points on 47.5 percent shooting, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds last year, and the Wizards may need even more from him this coming season.
Beal's decision to slog through a rebuild runs counter to the superstar movement that's become prevalent in recent years, but he appears willing to give the Wizards' new management one last try before jumping ship.
"Brad has always made it clear to me, that in a perfect world, he would never leave Washington," his agent, Mark Bartelstein, told Wojnarowski. "He has felt an obligation to be the focal point in turning the Wizards into an elite team."
An extra $72 million doesn't hurt, either, especially given the flexibility he'll still have following the 2021-22 season.
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