In recent weeks, NBA superstars such as Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook have switched teams, and it looks like another star may soon be on the move.
Beal is coming off arguably the best season of his career in which he averaged 25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.7 blocks per game, all career-highs. He turned 26 in late June and may get even better in the next few years.
Obviously, a player that productive deserves a real shot at winning an NBA world championship. At the very least, he deserves to play on a team that is a lock to make the NBA playoffs, unlike the Wizards, who won only 32 games in 2018-19.
If Beal does indeed turn down the contract extension, which could pay him as much as $111 million over three years, he will soon have leverage over demanding a trade, since he will become a free agent in the summer of 2021.
What would be the best team for him to get traded to?
1. Miami Heat
With Dwyane Wade now retired, the Heat are in the process of building their next championship team. They executed a sign-and-trade deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that netted them four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, but other than that, their roster consists largely of young players who seem unlikely to ever become bonafide stars.
A Beal trade involving the Heat would likely have to involve Goran Dragic, who is owed about $19.2 million in 2019-20. Dragic’s contract will expire at the end of this upcoming season, which could be attractive to a team like the Wizards who would undoubtedly be looking to rebuild should they deal Beal.
Beal is owed about $27.1 million this upcoming season, which would necessitate the Heat adding at least one more player to a potential trade to make the salaries work.
A Butler-Beal pairing could give the Heat a puncher’s chance at reaching the NBA Finals now that Kawhi Leonard is a Los Angeles Clipper. It would also take the pressure of the team’s cadre of young players, including Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and first-round draft pick Tyler Herro.
2. Golden State Warriors
When Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles during the NBA Finals and then left to join the Brooklyn Nets, it looked like the Warriors’ chances of having a true dynasty left with him.
But they quickly reloaded, acquiring newly-minted All-Star D’Angelo Russell and picking up center Willie Cauley-Stein.
It’s been rumored that the Warriors may not hold onto Russell for long. He will make nearly $27.3 million in 2019-20, which means that he could be swapped straight up for Beal.
At just 26, Beal would allow the Warriors to remain young. But even better, he’s a more ideal fit for that team than Russell, who’s a ball-dominant guard and had a usage rate of 31.9 percent in 2018-19.
Beal’s usage rate this past season was 28.4. He has a lifetime three-point shooting percentage of 38.4 percent, while Russell has made just 35.3 percent of his shot attempts from downtown. Beal is also a solid defensive player, as opposed to Russell, who is considered below average in that department.
By acquiring Beal, the Warriors could set themselves up nicely to be dark horse title contenders, if not this upcoming season, then certainly in 2020-21.
3. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets did well in 2018-19, finishing 54-28 and taking the Portland Trail Blazers to overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
But as the old saying goes, good is the enemy of great, and despite the emergence of center Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets may need to make a significant move in order to win their first-ever world championship.
One possibility could be trading Paul Millsap, who will make $30.5 million in 2019-20, for Beal. Like Dragic, Millsap’s contract will expire at the end of next season, which means he could help the Wizards get under the cap and rebuild.
Millsap has been a strong complementary player for years, but at age 34 he probably doesn’t have a ton left in his tank. Trading him for Beal should make the Nuggets true championship contenders, especially since they’ve also added forward Jerami Grant.
It’s hard though to see why the Wizards would do this trade. In all likelihood, the Nuggets would have to sweeten the pot by sending the Wizards a young prospect or draft picks along with Millsap to get them to pull the trigger.