That never happened, though, as the Washington Wizards traded Beal to the Suns and received Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, Bilal Coulibaly, four first-round pick swaps and six second-round picks in return for the three-time NBA All-Star.
Beal opened up on the “gut punch” of the Heat not trading for him during the offseason.
“So, my initial favorite was Miami,” Beal told Andscape. “And so, we call Miami. [Miami president] Pat [Riley] says well I’ll go talk to [owner] Micky [Arison] and figure it out. So he goes, talks to Micky, we go, we hear back [New York] Knicks, Sacramento, Brooklyn a little bit, and then it was Milwaukee and it was one more big team. So, I didn’t like Knicks. I didn’t like Sac from the standpoint they were still a little too young, but they have amazing young guys, young pieces, and they both would’ve had to trade young pieces to get me. And that was kind of one of the most difficult things about every trade and every team. And I respect and love every team, but a lot of them just couldn’t do it because the money was just so high.
“And with our new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] and the luxury tax, a lot of owners just was like, ‘We don’t want to get hit over the head with that.’ And that’s a respectable decision. If I was the ownership and I’m pouring in billions of dollars, I want to make sure we’re getting a championship out of it too. So, out of nowhere I get a call and it’s Mat Ishbia in Phoenix. I’m like, ‘Y’all about to trade Book (Devin Booker)? How is that going to happen? How is that going to work?’ That didn’t even cross my mind of going to Phoenix. And sure enough, they just kept pressing and pressing and I’m nudging my agent.
“I’m like, ‘OK, what’s Miami doing? Dragging feet.’ And eventually it came to a point to where Miami said they just can’t do it. And that kind of was like a gut punch. I was like, ‘Dang, that was my spot.’ But it was eye-opener for sure. And that’s why I said I went into everything kind of open-minded and with an open slate. And out of nowhere here comes a dark horse in Phoenix and their aggressiveness pushed me over the top. Milwaukee was very close in the running as well, but they were going to make some moves that I didn’t necessarily like in the trade, too. So, I guess that’s the beauty of having a no-trade clause. You get to have a little bit of say-so in the deal. But in the end, man, it ultimately just felt like Phoenix picked me.”
Beal spent his first 11 NBA seasons as a member of the Wizards franchise. The team selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. The guard averaged 23.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in 50 games with the Wizards during the 2022-23 regular season, his 11th and final season with the franchise. Beal also converted 50.6 percent of his field-goal attempts and 36.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Entering the 2022-23 regular season, the Wizards were seen by many as a threat to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference thanks largely to the team’s duo of Beal and star big man Kristaps Porzingis. But Beal and the Wizards fell short of those expectations.
The Wizards finished the regular season with a mediocre 35-47 record and missed out on the playoffs entirely. Porzingis was admittedly a bright spot for the Wizards last season, however, as he averaged 23.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game with the franchise. But the Wizards dealt Porzingis to the Boston Celtics in June.
It may have hurt Beal that he didn’t end up in Miami, but he seemingly has just as good of a chance to win the 2024 NBA title with Phoenix as he would have with the Heat.
After all, he will be playing alongside two of the best scorers in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Booker. Plus, the Suns were the only team to force a Game 6 against the defending champion Nuggets in the 2023 playoffs.