Without making a formal announcement, the Wizards quietly exercised Bradley Beal’s third-year option worth $4.5 million in 2014-15 earlier this week. Beal, the third overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft, is considered one of the foundational pieces for the franchise, along with John Wall, after a promising rookie season.
Keeping him around required the amount of thought it takes to blink.
“Brad is a mature player,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said recently. “He works very hard at his game. He’s only 20 years old now. Last year, he was a 19-year-old rookie and he had a lot to learn. And he learned. I think you could see his progression as the season went on. He got better at the end of the year. Brad worked very hard in the offseason. He’s taking the ball better to the basket now. He’s making plays for his teammates and his confidence level has gone up. He’s grown a little bit and he’s maturing physically.”
But as expected, the Wizards allowed Thursday’s 6 p.m. deadline pass without exercising the fourth-year options for forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. Vesely and Singleton will both become unrestricted free agents next summer, when the team will potentially have more than $15 million available in salary cap room to sign free agents.
While discussing the trade for Marcin Gortat last weekend, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld was asked about using that money to go after a maximum-salaried free agent. “That could become available to us if that’s a direction we want to go, but we’ll worry about that next summer,” Grunfeld said.
Vesely is one of two lottery picks to have his team decline the fourth-year option. The Sacramento Kings also passed on Jimmer Fredette, the 10th overall pick in that draft.
With Denver also passing on 26th overall pick Jordan Hamilton, four 2011 first-round picks officially became unrestricted free agents next summer on Thursday – with their respective teams opting for savings over continued investment and development. Two other first-round picks from that 2011 draft class – Nolan Smith, who grew up Landover, and JaJuan Johnson – are already out of the league.
Vesely and Singleton were both expected to be a part of the Wizards’ young core after they were selected, but their careers have failed to take off. They were greeted with a four-month lockout before their rookie seasons and both regressed last season after the Wizards acquired better, veteran players in Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. This season, they are on the outside looking in with regards to the rotation.
Vesely, the sixth overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft, was slated to earn $4.2 million in 2014-15. That price was too steep for a player with career averages of 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds. He didn’t receive any playing time in the Wizards’ 113-102 season-opening loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Singleton, the 18th pick in 2011, is currently sidelined with a Jones fracture in his left foot, but has been making steady progress. He no longer moves with the assistance of crutches or a walking boot but was unable to leave an impression during training camp. The Wizards saved $2.5 million after this season by declining the option.