At some point in the next two years — which seems like an eternity in the NBA — All-Star guard Bradley Beal will inform the Washington Wizards whether he plans to accept any of multiple contract extensions that will be available to him or if he plans to enter free agency in 2021.
If Beal doesn’t sign, expect the Heat to again call the Wizards and make another attempt to snag a player the Heat organization loves.
If Beal enters free agency with an open mind in 2021, Miami would appear to have as strong a shot as anybody.
But if the Wizards eventually consider trading Beal — something they say they won’t consider under any circumstances this offseason — the Heat faces major challenges in two areas regarding a trade for Beal: 1) lack of draft picks to acquire Beal alone and 2) the salary-cap-induced need to strip most of its roster to take on a combination of Beal and John Wall.
Say, theoretically, Beal informs the Wizards in a year or 18 months that he doesn’t intend to re-sign. You can be sure the Wizards, who would be embarking on a rebuild at that time, would seek a package including multiple first-round picks. The Heat, at the moment, is not permitted to trade any future draft pick — the only Eastern Conference team in that conundrum.
Which means any Heat offer simply for Beal — without Wall’s contract attached — likely would need to include the Heat’s three-best assets (Bam Adebayo, Justise Winslow and Tyler Herro) plus an expiring contract, and even that might not trump another team’s offer of two first-round picks and a good young player.
The only way the Heat could attach a draft pick to the deal would be if a trade can be struck just before next June’s draft, so that Miami could draft a player with the intention of trading him to Washington.
But the bottom line is that it would be difficult for Miami, without multiple future first-round picks to trade, to make the best offer for Beal without taking on Wall. And then the question becomes this: Would it even be wise for Miami to trade all of its best assets for Beal knowing that it could hold onto those assets (Adebayo, Winslow, Herro, potentially its 2020 first-rounder) and try to sign Beal using cap space in 2021? Patience would seem the more prudent path in that scenario.
What about the other scenario, with the Heat taking on both Wall and Beal with the understanding that Miami wouldn’t need to give up nearly as much quality in return?
As we reported in early July, that scenario has been seriously discussed inside the Heat and there’s sentiment to do that, because of how much the Heat loves Beal and because of the internal belief that Miami can get Wall back to All-Star level following his ruptured Achilles, which is expected to sideline him this upcoming season.
But the Wizards have shown no inclination to package Beal with Wall in an attempt to purge the final four years and $171 million of Wall’s contract.
And here’s the problem with that from a Heat perspective: If Washington doesn’t consider a Beal/Wall combo offer until after this coming season, there are narrow, limited pathways where a deal could be done from Miami’s perspective.
Unless the Heat trades for Beal and Wall into cap space without sending comparable salaries away (which isn’t realistic, as we’ll explain in a minute), Miami — per NBA trade rules involving teams not in position to absorb salaries into cap space and stay under the cap — essentially must trade away at least $61.3 million in 2020-21 salary to absorb the $69.9 million due Wall and Beal in 2020-21.
So any package at that time would need to include James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Kelly Olynyk (who can opt out of $13.6 million for 2020-21 if he chooses). Those four combine for $55.2 million in salaries for 2020-21. Miami could reach the magic $62 million figure by trading the player it drafts next year to Washington (or Herro) plus, say, a couple of minimum contracts such as Duncan Robinson or KZ Okpala.
In this scenario, the Heat could exceed the cap and re-sign Derrick Jones Jr.
Though the Heat can absorb more salary than it sends away next summer with its current payroll situation, it would be unrealistic to absorb Wall and Beal into cap space without sending comparable salaries back. Here’s why:
Beal ($28.7 million), Wall ($41.2 million), Bam Adebayo ($5.1 million) and Jimmy Butler ($34.4 million) are due to make $109.4 million in 2020-21.
The Heat’s $5.2 million cap hit for Ryan Anderson that year would push Miami’s commitments to $114.6 million. With the cap expected to fall in the range of $118 million, mandatory cap holds would push Miami over the cap and thus make it impossible to absorb Wall and Beal without purging significant salary — whether Olynyk opts out or not.
The Wizards say they won’t trade Beal even if he rejects a three-year, $111 million offer that he has until Oct. 21 to accept. If he bypasses that offer, he would be eligible for a four-year, $154 million extension next summer or (if he makes All-NBA), a five-year, $254 million extension.
The Wizards likely would need to be convinced that Beal plans to leave to consider trading him. And while the Heat likely will try to pounce if that happens, the aforementioned obstacles create limited avenues for how a deal can be done.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton said if Washington trades Wall and Beal, it would signify the most single-season salary outgoing in a trade in NBA history.
So the question ultimately comes down to this if Beal doesn’t commit to the Wizards in the next year but Washington keeps him all of this coming season:
Do you take on Wall’s $41.2 million, $44.2 million and $47.3 million in 2021-23 for a year of Beal? Do you trade all of your best assets simply for Beal? Or do you show extreme patience and try to snag Beal in 2021?
Wall, for his part, told reporters last weekend that he hopes to spend his entire career in Washington and that he expects Beal to accept the Wizards’ three-year, $111 million offer.
▪ According to league sources, the tentative NBA schedule circulating around the league has the Heat playing a Halloween game at Atlanta on TNT (opposing a 49ers-Cardinals NFL game on Fox) and a Friday, Dec. 13, home game against the Lakers on ESPN.
▪ In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Rohan Nadkarni, recently retired Heat guard Dwyane Wade spoke about the purpose of a weeklong camp he has organized for NBA players dubbed “The Invitational.”
Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Cleveland’s Collin Sexton and Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. were among the players who attended Wade’s camp held last week in California.
When asked about the idea of pitching players on joining the Heat, Wade said to Sports Illustrated: “Never. I’ve never had to pitch a guy on Miami. I didn’t have to pitch Shaq; he came on his own. I didn’t have to pitch LeBron and Chris; it was more so about what we could do together, not necessarily where it was going to be at. If somebody reaches out to me and asks me what I think, then I give them my spiel. But I’ve never had to pitch a guy on Miami. I think it’s just social media talk. It’s something for someone to write. It’s funny to me.”
Among the other topics Wade touched was retirement. He said he feels “complete” after winning three championships in 16 NBA seasons.
Wade also added that he will not be in “Space Jam 2,” which stars close friend and former teammate LeBron James.
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