Is Bradley Beal a max player?
The answer isn’t simple. Remember that there are levels of max player (nobody is saying Beal is Anthony Davis). Beal is both looking for an extension of his rookie deal and is certainly a core part of Washington’s future. Those kinds of guys get max money. On the down side, he was inconsistent last season and has missed time for three straight seasons due to a stress reaction in his leg. On the upside, he shot 40.9 percent from three last season, and he led Washington with 23.4 points a game in the playoffs. This is a guy invited to Team USA mini-camp this month — Mike Krzyzewski sees his value.
The sides are talking, and you can be sure Beal and his agent Mark Bartelstein are asking for the max.
But for Washington there is another complication — Kevin Durant. The Wizards need the cap space to try to bring next summer’s biggest free agent home to play in the nation’s capital (although that is a longshot), and a max deal for Beal makes that difficult, as Zach Lowe explains at Grantland.
The Wizards need about $25.5 million in room to fit Kevin Durant on a max contract, and if they sign Beal to a max-level extension, they would have almost precisely that amount left over. Playing the math that tight is dangerous, and makes it hard to fill a workable roster unless ring-chasers come aboard at massive discounts. The Wiz would be safer following the path San Antonio took with Leonard, only they haven’t built up the cachet that allowed the Spurs to say, essentially, “Trust us. Hold tight as a cheap cap hold, and we’ll make it worth your while.” Washington needs to nurture the good vibes, and that means at least coming to the table.
Beal may want his money now, and his side will surely propose a max-level extension. He hasn’t played up to that level yet, but 22 year olds with silky strokes and some grit on defense don’t readily accept less.
You can be sure this is where the negotiations are right now. The Wizards are likely offering just less than the max by a few million, just to give them some financial flexibility. Beal is asking for the max.
Will Beal take a little less for financial security, considering that stress reaction history? If he stays healthy this season, other teams will throw max money at him next summer when the system is flush with television money teams need to spend.
But is Beal going to bet on himself to stay healthy and have a big year? Or does he take a little less and four years of security?
The lesson of this free agent summer was guys went for security over potentially slightly larger paydays down the line. Don’t be surprised if Beal does the same.