Bradley Beal wants to get paid this summer, and he’s emphasized that it will take a maximum contract to keep him in a Washington Wizards uniform. At 22 years old, it’s not surprising he would want top dollar, but based on his health issues and performance to date, he just isn’t worth the risk for that type of money. Still, the franchise might have little choice — despite there being as many as 22 shooting guards available in free agency this summer, none of them will be at Beal’s level.
“I don’t want to be on the market at all,” Dwyane Wade, the biggest name and highest-paid player at the position, said two days after the Heat lost to Toronto in the playoffs. “I’m not curious at all. I want to get to it [with the Heat]. I want to be able to sign my deal and move on and not have to deal with any rumors, any free agency, any this, any that. This is where I want to end my career. So we’ll figure it out.”
Courtney Lee, a traditional “three-and-D” player who was acquired by Charlotte near the trade deadline, could be a decent option. Lee rewarded the Hornets with 8.9 points on 44.5 percent shooting (39.2 percent from beyond the three-point line), 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game.
He was asked to spot up opponents more than a third of the time, scoring 0.97 points per possession, and also handled the ball during the pick and roll (0.93 points per possession for Hornets). At his best in transition, Lee scored 1.4 points per possession on his own and boosted that to 1.6 after accounting for his passes.
Early indications, however, are that Lee will likewise stay put.
“Of course I would like to be [back]. [I] got a chance to build chemistry and friendships with the guys since I’ve been here and it’s been fun playing with them,” he told NBA.com’s Sam Perley.
After Lee, the free agent options only go more steeply downhill.
Jamal Crawford, who averaged 19 points and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes for the Clippers, turned 36 years old in March and functions better in isolation near the basket than he does on the perimeter. In fact, he was worse than the Wizards’ Otto Porter Jr. at hitting the wide-open three (32.4 percent).
Gerald Green, who spent last season with the Heat, wasn’t afraid to let it fly from long range (3.8 three-point shot attempts while playing 22.6 minutes per game) but shot just 32.3 percent from beyond the arc and has been on the decline for three seasons now.
Eric Gordon, who appears to be done in New Orleans after five seasons, is injury-prone like Beal and was the only player last season to average 30 or more minutes per game but produce fewer than three rebounds, three assists and one steal. Not an ideal candidate for any team.
There’s also Kevin Martin, Kirk Hinrich, Alan Anderson and O.J. Mayo, but none are palatable replacements for Beal, who, despite being overvalued, still has enough upside and star power to help keep the team competitive.
Otherwise, the Wizards could decide to look in house: When Beal was off the court, Garrett Temple, Jared Dudley and Porter played the most minutes in his absence. Of those, though, only Porter, a 6-foot-8 small forward entering his fourth season in the NBA, is under contract for the 2016-17 season.
Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, averaged 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per 36 minutes of game time last season, shooting 47.3 percent from the field and making 36.7 percent of his attempts from behind the three-point line. But Porter’s efficiency was more due to making midrange jumpers than the corner three, which, in today’s NBA, is not ideal strategy.
All told, it looks as if bringing back Beal on a max deal is a fait accompli for the Washington Wizards. But that won’t stop it from being a disappointing, high-risk contract on the books.