Washington Wizards’ biggest roster construction question: Should they re-sign Bradley Beal?

Readers asked great questions about the Washington Wizards.

I cannot get to all of them in this space, but the offseason has only just started. Some of your more in-depth questions will lead to standalone articles, I promise. In the meantime, I’ve focused on several questions about roster construction.

Should the Wizards re-sign Bradley Beal? Should they target Mike Conley for their starting point guard job? does have Kristaps Porziņģis on the roster make Beal expendable?

I answer those questions and more in this edition of The Athletic‘s Wizards mailbag.


If you were the Wizards’ general manager, would you re-sign Beal? –david b.

I’d be hesitant to re-sign Beal for a total of $245 million over five years, which appears to be the direction the franchise and Beal are headed this offseason.

That would amount to an average salary of $49 million per season, a significant overpay. According to Spotracamong contracts already on the books for the 2022-23 season and beyond, only one player leaguewide would have a larger average annual salary: Stephen Curryat $53.8 million per season. Kevin Durant ranks second, at $48.6 million per season, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpoat $45.6 million per season.

At his best, Beal is a superb offensive player.

But is he great enough to be the best player on a championship-winning team — that team’s No. 1 option, its dominant force? Is he a player along the lines of Lebron JamesCurry, Durant, Giannis or Kawhi Leonard? No. Beal most likely would top out as a championship team’s second-best player.

Let’s frame this another way. A contract with an average salary of $49 million would be one of the league’s five highest average salaries, but Beal is not one of the league’s top five players. In his best season of him — 2020-21, when he averaged 31.3 points per game — he finished as a third-team All-NBA player and the 14th-highest vote count overall.

Paying Beal $49 million per year would be acceptable if the league didn’t have a salary cap, but as we all know, the salary cap does exist. Devoting such a large percentage of the cap to Beal would constrict the Wizards’ cap flexibility. Meanwhile, with a healthy Beal around, Washington would probably be good enough to draft in the middle of the first round year after year, a place where a team is less likely to pick a future superstar.


Bradley Beal is on track for a massive payday this summer. (Geoff Burke/USA Today)

To be sure, now that the Wizards have reached this stage, they cannot, and should not, let Beal walk for no assets in return. For now, though, it appears this debate is moot. Tommy Sheppard has made it clear that all the parties involved — Beal, Beal’s agent, Ted Leonsis and Sheppard himself — are “all on the same page” and “want the same things.” Beal has said he’s learning toward re-signing.

I know many Wizards fans would like to see the team begin a total rebuild. The thought is, if it has little chance to win a title with Beal, why not begin the process now of attempting to acquire a player who would be better than Beal for the long term?

Well, if the Wizards strip down their roster and tank ruthlessly, there would be no guarantee they would either win the lottery or draft the right player. Remember: The lottery reforms that went into effect in 2019 flattened out the odds. In the lotteries immediately before 2019, the team with the worst record had a 25.0 percent chance of winning the lottery, and the second-worst team had a 19.9 percent chance. Now, the three worst teams share 14 percent chances of winning.

So these days, there’s a slimmer probability the worst team wins the best pick. A team that tanks could go year after year without ever drafting a franchise cornerstone. Maybe fans could tolerate one or two years of futility. But what about beyond that? I’ve covered full rebuilds up close, and take it from me: I’ve seen the negative impact it has even on the most dedicated fans.

Attempting to win with Beal at least gives Wizards fans a reason to watch the games.


It is clear Beal is in decline. You can see it in his play and in his statistical breakdown of it. (He’s) a notorious non-defender as well. His best years of him are behind him. How could paying Beal the same as Nikola Jokic ever make sense? He won’t even be an All-Star again. Does n’t it appear the Wizards will be trying to dump his contract from him in a year or two? –Ben W.

I agree with the broader point you’re making here, Ben: Re-signing Beal to a five-year, $245 million contract is fraught with downsides and potential problems from a cap perspective.

But the argument for not re-signing Beal starts to erode when it relies on hyperbole. If someone who hasn’t seen Beal play read your question, that person could reasonably conclude that Beal is, at best, a ham-and-egger.

He’s far better than that. He’s a three-time All-Star who will turn only 29 this June. That’s far from washed-up.

It’s true that Beal did not play close to his lofty standards this past season. Heck, I’ve written that “his game showed signs of decline.” But at what point should everyone, including me, cut Beal a little slack for playing for a brand-new coach and with an inordinately high number of brand-new teammates? Beal averaged 30.5 points per game in 2019-20 and 31.3 points per game in 2020-21. Those are 30-plus points per game in two of the past three seasons. So I’m not ready to conclude that this past season foreshadows what’s to come. In fact, these are the years when he should be in his prime. It’s reasonable to predict he’ll have a bounce-back season in 2022-23.


the Jazz will probably be sellers this offseason after falling short in the first round to the Mavericks. Conley didn’t have a great postseason compared to his past postseasons, and he looks like a buy-low option. He fits a lot of the Wizards’ needs from veteran leadership, 3-point shooting, playmaking and defense.

Should the Wizards target him as their point guard for next season? Are there any other Jazz players the Wizards should realistically try to target, like Royce O’Neale or Daniel House Jr.? Conley’s shooting with the Jazz in previous postseasons and regular seasons has been outstanding, and his contract costs the same as Malcolm Brogdon‘s but expires a year earlier, at the end of 2024, so the Wizards wouldn’t be tied to him long term. –Max P.

Conley would be a palatable stopgap solution to the Wizards’ point guard problem. I agree he would provide veteran leadership and 3-point shooting. He’s universally regarded as a great teammate. I also think he would play hard on defense.

But there would be drawbacks. He has dealt with injuries in recent years, though he appeared in 72 games this past season, and will turn 35 in mid-October. I’d be reluctant to depend heavily on someone that age at that premium position. He’s also 6-foot-1, and as the Wizards learned with Raul Net and ish smithhaving short point guards can make switching on defense less effective.

I like O’Neale. He’s a solid role player at the wing spot who provides good defense and good 3-point shooting.


Mike Conley could be a stopgap option for the Wizards at point guard. (Chris Nicoll/USA Today)

Why such an emphasis on foreign players? Isn’t it still possible to find American players who have upside and can play? –Michael W.

It certainly feels as if the Wizards emphasize players from outside North America. I think that perception stems from the team using its 2019 first-round pick to select Rui Hachimura and its 2020 first-round pick on Deni Avdija.

The Wizards finished the 2021-22 season with five international players on their roster: Avdija, Hachimura, Neto, Porziņģis and Tomáš Satoransky.

the Toronto Raptors started the season with 10 international players, according to the league. the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder followed with seven international players apiece. the Atlanta Hawks, boston celtics, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans opened with five apiece.

So it’s correct to say the Wizards rely on players from outside North America more than most teams, but they’re not a significant outlier.

I suspect the team drafted Hachimura and Avdija because team officials felt they were the best available players at that stage in their respective drafts, not because of where they grew up.

The stereotype of foreign players, and in particular European bigs, is that they rely more on finesse than power. Certainly Porziņģis is a finesse player. But Hachimura and Avdija play with physicality.


Given that Porziņģis is a franchise-level player (when he plays), is there any chance the Wiz will build around him instead of massively overpaying for Beal? I realize Porziņģis’ health is a big question mark, but his impact on winning is much more significant than is Beal’s, according to the numbers. If the Wizards could sign Beal to a reasonable contract or trade him and make Porziņģis the cornerstone, they’d still be taking a risk, but it has a much, much higher upside than half a decade of mediocrity with Beal on a supermax. Beal can’t take them to the Promised Land; Porziņģis at least has that potential. What sayest thou? –Keith W.

The Wizards have made clear what they intend to do: re-sign Beal.

Porziņģis is supremely talented and unique for a 7-foot-3 player.

I don’t regard Porziņģis as a cornerstone franchise, though. Earlier in this piece, I wrote that Beal is not a great enough player to be the top player on a championship team. I would say the same thing about Porziņģis, but I would like to see what he can accomplish with two or three consecutive seasons free of injuries.

With Beal and Porziņģis, I see a team that, in the best possible scenario, would have a No. 2 option on a title team (Beal) and a No. 3 option on a title team (Porziņģis).

But let’s assume for a minute that your assessment of Porziņģis’ potential as a franchise cornerstone if he has excellent health is correct. Then Porziņģis would be the top option. And assuming the team re-signs Beal, he would give them a solid second option, in my view. Lo and behold, the Wizards would have the makings of a contending team.

Granted, given that specific pecking order, the salaries of the top two players would be flip-flopped, with Beal earning more than Porziņģis. But if Porziņģis winds up as good as you say he can be—and perhaps he will—then Washington would be in great shape.


Which (if any) of Hachimura, kyle kuzma and Avdija should the Wizards look to move? This is assuming they do not get a franchise-altering pick in this year’s draft. –ReidN.

Washington does have a lot of combo forwards, guys who can play the three and the four: Kuzma, Hachimura, and Avdija, with more experience and development, Isaiah Todd.

That surplus of combo forwards leads me to think the Wizards could create a trade package that consists of Hachimura or Avdija, a draft pick or picks and perhaps Todd for a starting point guard. With Tyrese Haliburton in the fold, maybe the Indiana Pacers would be willing to part with Brogdon.

So which player should Washington be more willing to part with, Hachimura or Avdija? That’s a tough one. Hachimura is the better scorer and shooter, especially after he shot 55-for-123 (45 percent) from 3-point range this past season. Avdija is a more engaged defender and a better, more willing passer.

My primary tiebreaker is age. Only 21 years old, Avdija is nearly three full years younger than Hachimura. Over the next three years, I’d wager Avdija will improve his shooting, retain his passing ability and become savvier as a defender — making him a better all-around player in 2025, when he’ll be 24 years old, than Hachimura is now at 24.

So I’d say Washington should be more willing to trade Hachimura than Avdija.

(Top photo of Bradley Beal: Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

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