The Washington Wizards took care of one significant task this offseason when they hired Wes Unseld Jr. to be their coach. But they could soon have a much more pressing issue to address.
According to multiple reports, Bradley Beal is “seriously mulling” whether he wants to stay in the District. According to Bleacher Report, Beal is considering whether to request a trade, while The Athletic added Beal has “been very much on the fence” whether he wants to remain in the District.
If Beal demands out, that could force the Wizards’ hand to possibly trade him as soon as Thursday — when the NBA draft begins. The Golden State Warriors, for example, are rumored to be interested in Beal and they could theoretically package center James Wiseman, the No. 7 and No. 14 picks and other assets to try and land the three-time All-Star.
The Wizards could always hold on to Beal, but if the guard wants to leave, then they would risk losing him for nothing after the 2021 season. The 27-year-old is entering the last year of his contract, though he holds a player option for the 2022-23 season.
Teams have long tried to pry Beal from the Wizards, who have resisted those efforts — maintaining that Beal is a franchise cornerstone. Over the last few seasons, Beal has become not just the Wizards’ primary scorer but has emerged as a league superstar. This past year, Beal was named to the All-NBA third team for the first time and finished second in scoring with 31.2 points per game.
Beal was set part of the Olympics team but had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.
Despite Beal’s personal improvement, the Wizards have struggled over the last few seasons — leaving the guard frustrated at times. The team is coming off its first playoff appearance since 2018 when the eighth-seeded Wizards (34-38) were eliminated in five games to the No.1-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
After Washington was bounced from the playoffs, Beal said he didn’t want to focus on his future with the Wizards. He said he realized that trade chatter would likely increase in the months to come because of his contract status.
“Ultimately, I’m in control,” Beal said. “I think my biggest thing is [that] people can report what they want but I know where my mind is, and I know if it’s not coming from the horse’s mouth, then it’s just going to be rumors.”
Beal said before last season started that his “biggest thing” was to win now. The Wizards traded for star point Russell Westbrook in an effort to raise their ceiling.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said the team’s plan was to build around Beal.
“We’ve had straight-line conversations with him that’s always been very transparent and very direct,” Sheppard said. “That’s how it will continue. … It was very gratifying [Wednesday] to hear his comments about this year’s team. I think he‘s positive about moving forward in the future.”
If Beal voices otherwise, the Wizards will have a major problem on their hands.