Bradley Beal expects trade rumors; what if Wizards did the exact opposite?

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What if Wizards did the exact opposite of trading Beal? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Even Bradley Beal isn't denying there are questions about his future with the Wizards. Though he technically has two years left on the contract extension he signed with Washington in October of 2019, the second season is a player option. 

When asked about there likely being trade rumors this summer following the team's playoff elimination last week, Beal referred to his status matter-of-factly.

"I mean, I expect them. S---, they’re starting now. It doesn’t change anything. They’re definitely going to increase more this year with me going into the last year of my deal," Beal said.

That's just the reality of the NBA and Beal knows it well. He's dealt with trade rumors for years now and he may see more this summer. Even though the Wizards took a step forward by making the playoffs and even though the team maintains their stance that they won't trade him unless he asks out, Beal has shown no indication he wants to do that.

So, expect some speculation and conjecture this offseason. But as media and fans come up with hypothetical deals, ones involving first-round picks and players, here's another way to look at it: what if the Wizards tried doing the exact opposite first? 

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said he's willing to make some aggressive moves this offseason to turn the team into contenders. That indicates a potential trade. The Wizards have first-round picks, young players and veterans with salaries to match. 

Are they the most asset-rich team in the league? No, but you can do a lot with a few first-round picks, especially when they are coming from a team like the Wizards. The franchise hasn't had a first-round pick based on their record fall outside of the top-20 since the 1970s.

Doing the opposite of trading Beal would be trading a similar package for another player of his caliber, i.e. a third star to pair with him and Westbrook. The Wizards could then give it until the trade deadline in 2022 to evaluate their next steps.

If it works, they keep it rolling. If it doesn't, they would have the insurance policy of three stars of varying values to trade and recuperate lost assets. If they wanted to trigger a rebuild, they would have an excellent starting point, as long as they decided before it's too late.

Basically, as long as they have Beal under contract, the Wizards have leverage. The same goes for Westbrook, though to a lesser extent because of his age and salary figure. If they brought in a third star-level player, they would have even more options.

That's not to diminish the risk of such a tactic. Trading draft picks or any of the team's key young players would certainly be risky. Ideally, they would keep some collection of Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant.

But risks are sometimes necessary in the NBA and they can be rewarded in big ways. Plus, when your franchise hasn't won 50 games or made the Eastern Conference Finals since 1979, maybe it's time to take a chance and try something you haven't tried before.

Now, finding the right player to explore this scenario with would not be easy. They need someone who complements Beal and Westbrook positionally (so, not a guard), ideally plays defense, isn't a liability as a shooter and isn't past their prime. They also would have to be made available for trade by another team. So, some stars would need to align.

Every year, though, opportunities come up in the NBA. In the last eight months alone, four of the league's five highest-paid players were traded: Westbrook, Chris Paul, John Wall and James Harden.

The right parameters for the Wizards to trade for a third star may not end up being there. But given Beal's value around the league, and the fact he's under contract, the Wizards have the perfect fallback option and could use that to their advantage.