Bradley Beal and the Mo’ Money Threat

Bradley Beal will be a restricted free agent come July 1st and he believes what he offers by way of offense is worthy enough to garner the maximum amount allowed under the current CBA. Bradley Beal’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, up to 25% of the cap and perhaps $23 million, has him salivating dollar signs, despite the fact that Beal has yet to play a full season as a professional player as injuries have dogged him, causing many to thrust the label of brittle onto the St. Louis native. Nevertheless, Beal laid out a veiled threat to the Wizards that if they don’t come off the dime, he’d take his talents to _____ (fill in the blank).

“I want to be valued the right way. I feel like I’m a max player and that’s what I’m looking for. If Washington can’t meet that requirement then I may be thinking elsewhere. I think a deal will probably get done but you just never know.”

It’s a debatable topic, what someone is worth, because depending on the viewpoint of the person signing the check, you are either worthy because you have demonstrated excellence or you are worthy because potential says something great is going to happen.

Mark Cuban, a few years ago, when a lot of shade was thrown at the Joe Johnson contract, clarified it somewhat. As a business owner, you may not want to sign a player to the max but not signing a player to the max can have disastrous complications. You don’t have to look any further than Shaquille O’Neal.

There were no such thing as restricted free agents in 1996. Shaq’s rookie contract ended and he wanted to get paid. Unlike Beal, no one questioned the money for O’Neal who had already been to the Finals and was a dominating presence. Orlando, however, didn’t believe a player was worth $100+ million dollars. They were new to the NBA game and were naive to how one mistake could set a franchise back a decade. When Jerry West freely offered O’Neal what he wanted, it changed the history of O’Neal, the Lakers, and it sent the Magic on a road they have never recovered from, save a 8 year Dwight Howard interruption.

On the books, the Wizards have a star defender and play maker in John Wall but they do not have a scorer in John Wall. The Wizards have to come to terms with overpaying their star scorer or letting him go to a team like the Lakers in a sign and trade for Jordan Clarkson.

But the question lingers. Is Bradley Beal worth it?  Three out of his four NBA seasons he has not played 65 games. Let’s look at the numbers.

This past season Beal played his fewest minutes in his career (31.1). He averaged a career high 17.4 points, a career low 3.4 rebounds and less than 3 assists a game. He’s not an explosive athlete. He doesn’t block shots and contest at the rim.

Among shooting guards, Beal’s Real Plus-Minus rank, which measures on court impact, was 65. Players ranked ahead of him at 62, 63 and 64 were Jamal Crawford, Seth Curry and Jordan McRae, none of whom will ever be max players. Beal is more talented than Crawford, Curry and McRae but he is not Klay Thompson, who is ranked 8th among shooting guards in Real Plus-Minus. Thompson is bigger, longer and more talented on both ends of the court than Beal. And he is almost never injured.

2015-16 Games Played Points 3-Point % PER Real Plus-Minus Rank (SG)
Klay Thompson 80 22.1 42.5% 18.6 8th
Bradley Beal 55 17.4 38.7% 15.5 65th

Beal’s defense is shaky. Because Wall is such a great defender, Beal’s mistakes are overcome. But he is the 88th worst defensive shooting guard. The list behind him are Marco Belinelli, Jordan Crawford and Lou Williams (Defensive Real-Plus Minus).  Jimmy Butler, who received a max deal from the Bulls last year, was ranked 12th in the 2015-16 season as a defender.  Klay Thompson, who received a max deal two summers ago, was ranked 45th.

DeMar DeRozan is a shooting guard who will be an unrestricted free agent in July and is also looking for a max deal. More people consider DeRozan a better max player bet than Beal just because of his impact on games. It’s estimated that DeRozan was responsible for 15.5 wins for the Raptors this year while Beal was responsible for 4.5 Wizards wins.

DeRozan and Beal are mirror images of each other. DeRozan is an iso player who has honed the mid-range and Beal is a three point shooter. DeRozan is ranked 22nd in Real-Plus Minus for shooting guards. In 2015-16, DeRozan was a 23.5 point player with 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists, numbers that significantly surpass Beal’s effort.

2015-16 Games Played Points Contested Shots % Defensive Real-Plus Minus Rank (SG)
DeMar DeRozan 78 23.5 45.9% 79th
Bradley Beal 55 17.4 41.7% 88th

Beal and DeRozan look to cash in during this summer of money. What the Wizards need to work out is how Beal’s contract will effect their roster construction. They need and are desperate for a proven small forward. Kevin Durant is probably off the table. But if they say no to Beal and the max money, they can say hello to Harrison Barnes. It’s easier to find a guard who can score than a small forward who can score, defend, rebound and is a NBA champion.

Breaking up Wall and Beal is going to be a hard thing for Ernie Grunfeld to do. But, Beal shouldn’t have all the leverage and Grunfeld can spin it through the greed prism, attaching a label to Beal of being more interested in money than improving the Wizards chances to be a contender. It’s the Tim Duncan standard.

All good businessmen, when in a negotiation, never show their hand but they have a price,  they stick to it and then, if it falls apart they can go to Plan B with a clear conscience. The Wizards disaster of a year on defense means they have to upgrade on the wing.

With Bradley Beal or without him.


photo via llananba