Is An Injury Prone Bradley Beal Worth Big Money?

Bradley Beal has been a key contributor to the Washington Wizards going back to his rookie year.  The shooting guard has averaged between 14 and 18 points each of his four years in DC, so General Manager Ernie Grunfeld certainly doesn’t want to see him walk out the door.  It’s true that Washington can match any offer sheet that Beal signs with another franchise during the summer.

Beal and the Wizards were actually in extension talks earlier this season, but both sides decided to wait until the offseason before revisiting the issue.

To be fair, Beal has suffered several injuries this season and even more in previous years.  The physical issues may appear to damage his value, but given Beal’s talent, he should receive a significant contract, despite his injury propensity.

In the District Points FG% 3-Point% Assists PER
Bradley Beal, 2012-16 16.0 42.5% 39.7% 3.0 14.3

In January, Beal concluded that his minutes may have to be monitored going forward, but that was never really a secret.  The thought is that 35 minutes per game is his limit, which could give some teams pause.  Beal has suffered many injuries such as a shoulder contusion, broken nose, concussion, and stress reactions in his fibula. He has never played a full 82 games season and was injured again in Saturday’s game against the Pacers. Tonight in Portland, he will miss his 22nd game of the year, which is more games than Klay Thompson and James Harden have missed the past four years.

Games Missed by Shooting Guards, 2012-16
Klay Thompson 8
DeMar DeRozan 25
James Harden 12
Bradley Beal 78

 

When Beal is able to play, he has been easily worth his $5.5 million salary.  In 40 games, he has posted a 45.5% field goal percentage which is easily a career best.  The 18 points per game would also edge out his strong 2013-14 campaign despite appearing in a career-low average of 31 minutes.

On March 3 in Minnesota, he put up 26 in just 29 minutes by going an efficient 10-15 from the field including 3-4 from behind the arc.  Beal even added three steals for good measure.

Another reason for the Wizards to retain Beal: he and teammate John Wall form an excellent tandem.  On February 9 at Madison Square Garden, Beal made a pass from the perimeter and found Wall for an alley-oop.  Wall and Beal are strong on the fast break as well: against Denver, Beal ran the floor and drew three defenders before passing behind his back for a Wall dunk.

Wall said in an interview: “I can’t be John Wall and be an All-Star if I don’t have Bradley Beal as my two-guard.”

Beal only averages three assists, but is clear that many of those are going to his team’s point guard.  Beal’s rapport with Wall is another reason Wizards fans winced when Beal suffered a freak pelvis injury during the March 5 matchup with the Pacers.

Teams are expected to spend big during the offseason, which bodes well even for restricted free agents like Beal.  The salary cap is expected to hit about $90 million next season, and the luxury tax threshold may hit $108 million.  The Wizards may have the final say on where Beal plays next season, but his recent performances may entice teams to make strong offers.  This past offseason, the Thunder decided to match Portland’s offer sheet to Enes Kanter which cost them $70 million over four seasons.  That’s likely more than Oklahoma City had hoped to pay.

According to the rules, only one five year extension is allowed per team. Wall was the beneficiary. Beal was looking at a four year extension in October or a five year deal in July. He took the summer option.

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld realizes he’ll need a substantial contract in order to retain his young guard.  There are plenty of potential suitors, teams with cap room and the desire to improve.  It’s still likely that Beal will remain in the District, since there are only five roster players signed for 2016-17.  Beal would carry a $14.2 million cap hold while he remains unsigned during the offseason.  Regardless, only about $45 million of salary is committed to next season.  The Wizards could easily retain him and still attempt to pursue a premier free agent like Kevin Durant.

The last words on the subject by the Wizards front office were predictable. They are going to match any offer for Beal. Was it a tactic to get teams not to sign Beal to an offer sheet so Grunfeld can control the process? Or, is it that Grunfeld sees Beal and Wall as a ten year fixture in D.C. and wants everyone else to back off?

photo via llanana