Rival NBA teams have coveted Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal for years, yet despite endless rumors and expressions of frustrations, Beal has never taken the plunge and forced his way onto a contending team. Instead, he surprised the NBA world when he signed a contract extension in 2019 that tied him to the Wizards through the 2021-22 season.
While that deal deprived Beal of some flexibility, there was strategic value in signing it when he did. He was drafted in 2012, so in the summer of 2022, he becomes eligible for the highest possible max salary as a 10-year veteran. That deal would start him off at 35 percent of the salary cap, and if he becomes a free agent next offseason, he will be able to sign with any team that can create the cap space to offer it.
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The Wizards don't want it to come to that, though. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, the team is hoping to sign Beal to an extension this offseason. Legally, he cannot put pen to paper until Oct. 17, the two-year anniversary of his last extension. But if he does, he could guarantee himself roughly $181.5 million in new money over four seasons. That is based on a cap projection just below $115.8 million, and with his $36.4 million option being replaced by his max for the 2022-23 season. He would then receive eight percent raises annually in the last three years of the deal.
In total, here is what Beal's contract would look like:
That's obviously an enormous sum, but if Beal wants to maximize his earnings, it would actually make sense for him not to sign this deal. Even if he intends to re-sign with the Wizards, veteran extensions can add only four years to a contract. If Beal trusts that nothing will prevent the Wizards from offering him a max deal next offseason, he could secure a fifth year just by waiting until he actually hits free agency. His salary in that fifth year would be exorbitant: an eight percent raise on that $50.2 million salary in the 2025-26 season.
Here's what that deal would look like, and keep in mind, it would leave his $34.5 million salary for next season untouched:
2021-22 (final year of original deal)
2022-23 (first year of new deal)
Of course, there is also the chance that Beal wants to test free agency in earnest and possibly sign with another team. Fortunately for the Wizards, they will have a substantial financial edge over the competition on that front. Opposing teams could guarantee him only four years and could offer only five percent annual raises off his initial salary. In total, that means that leaving the Wizards for another team next summer would mean leaving more than $60 guaranteed on the table.
Here's what a free-agent deal with a new team would look like for Beal:
If Beal does want to leave Washington, it would therefore behoove him to force a trade before the 2022 trade deadline. That way, he could secure the full five-year, $235 million deal from that new team rather than settling for $174.2 million on the open market. That $60 million gap doesn't necessarily equate to $60 million in losses. Remember, Beal would be a free agent in 2026 and would be expected to sign a different contract that would close some of that gap. In fact, he'd likely be able to guarantee himself more as a 33-year-old free agent than as a 34-year-old free agent, so the gap isn't quite as big in the grand scheme of things as it might appear.
But ultimately, what matters is how devoted Beal is to Washington. If he wants to stay with the Wizards, there are multiple ways in which he could do so as a very wealthy man. If he wants to leave, he can still position himself to maximize his earning potential, but it would require proactivity on his part to find the right situation as quickly as possible. What he will decide, we still can't say, but no matter what he wants to do, he's going to emerge from this decision as one of the highest-paid players in basketball.