The Impact of Bradley Beal's Contract Extension on the Wizards' Future
On October 17, 2019, Bradley Beal signed a 2-year, $72 million contract extension with the Washington Wizards. While the magnitude of the contract is not too extraordinary in terms of other players of Beal’s caliber, the long-term ramifications are enormous. In 2022, Beal will be eligible to sign a league record 5-year, $266 million. With an average of over $53 million per year, the Wizards are signing away their future flexibility and success to Beal in hopes of remaining relevant.
Amidst the trade rumors surrounding Beal in the past year, Beal’s new contract with the Wizards is a testament to the mutual desire to play for the Wizards. Beal’s backcourt partnership with John Wall has led to relatively little success in the Eastern Conference, but there is still time. John Wall is still owed an equally astonishing amount of $171 million over the next four years. Assuming that Beal signs the league-record $266 million contract in the summer of 2022 set up by this short-term extension, the 2023 season will see the Washington Wizards paying around $100 million to Beal and Wall alone.
With the salary cap projected to roughly be around $125 million at its current growth rate, it will be interesting to see if the Wizards can remain competitive with so much financial capital invested in two players. For major market teams or teams challenging for the title, exceeding the salary cap in pursuit of success is almost required. For a mid-market team such as the Wizards, the top-heavy nature of this future team will be incredibly inhibiting in filling out the remaining roster spots. I can guarantee that no follower of the NBA would ever believe that out of the entire league, Bradley Beal is the most deserving of the largest contract in NBA history, but this is the burden of smaller market teams. To attract and retain stars, teams like the Wizards must defy conventional evaluations of players' worth.
Throwing in the questionable state of John Wall's health and that Wall and Beal are contractually tied to the Wizards for several more years, the decision made by the Wizards to resign Beal on October 17, 2019 will define the future of the Wizards and how smaller-market teams allocate salaries. In my opinion, assuming that the Wizards offer Beal the league record deal in 2022, it will be a mistake. As individualistic of a sport that basketball can become in crunch time, it will be nearly impossible to compose a title-challenging roster with $25 million in cap space. As good of a player that Bradley Beal, there is no way that he will be able to lead a team of minimum contract players to the championship alongside an injury-prone and aging John Wall.