The Milwaukee Bucks have a lot of things going on, and reloading the roster for another bite at the “NBA Finals” apple is at the top of the list. There’s only so many different directions that the team could go in order to move the needle, but one of those paths (theoretically) involves a massive change to the team by way of moving one of the Core Four. To add some fuel to that smoldering flame, The Athletic’s Shams Charania mentioned the Bucks in relation to Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
The sources, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks are expected to be prominent suitors for Beal if he reaches the market.
“Expect the Miami Heat to emerge as significant suitors for Bradley Beal… I’m told another team looming as a potential suitor...the Milwaukee Bucks.”— Stadium (@Stadium) June 14, 2023
Our NBA Insider @ShamsCharania gave an update on the Wizards possibly looking to move Beal. pic.twitter.com/uLJXltDQSd
Let’s start on this from the perspective of the Wizards. Washington has been ultimately forgettable for years now – they haven’t won more than 50 games in a season since 1979, and in the last five years they’ve accumulated win totals of 32, 25, 34, 35, and 35. So it makes sense that a team without a clear cornerstone talent would be willing to make moves to collect assets and bring in younger prospects, which was news also broken by Shams this morning.
Just In: The Washington Wizards and Bradley Beal will work together to find a trade for the three-time All-Star if the team elects to reset the roster in the near future, league sources tell me and @JoshuaBRobbins.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 14, 2023
Ever since John Wall’s career went sideways due to his injuries, Bradley Beal has been The Guy in Washington. And he’s certainly been A Guy in the NBA; with career averages of 22/4/4 and shooting splits of 0.460/0.372/0.823, it’s clear that he can produce at the level commensurate with his “multiple All Star” status. But Beal clearly can’t be the top option on a team with serious playoff aspirations; if he could, the Wizards would be...better. As Washington decides their path to a rebuild, Beal (and some of his veteran teammates) are more than likely on the move.
Presuming that the Wizards really do pull the trigger on a rebuild, how does Milwaukee figure into this? Yes, the Bucks absolutely need to consider bringing in talent on Beal’s level, but arguably they have players better than Beal at that level in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. However, Beal’s value as both a shooter and a backcourt scorer is enough to weigh it against Middleton’s all-around offensive game and Jrue’s erratic offense/excellent defense. Furthermore, there’s the separate value considerations to be made for each player’s contract situation; Middleton has a player option to decide on in the next few weeks, while Holiday has one guaranteed year and one player option year remaining on his deal. Meanwhile, Bradley Beal makes...wait, how much?!
Beal is entering the second season of a five-year contract that pays out over a quarter of a billion American dollars through 2027, including a player option on the final year of the deal. He makes more money than Giannis Antetokounmpo! No, really! And! And! On top of that, he has a full no-trade clause!
That is, in technical terms, a lot for a player entering his age-30 season and is nowhere near the “League MVP” conversation. The Milwaukee Bucks have salary cap woes of their own; bringing in Beal would almost certainly necessitate moving on from one of Holiday ($36.1M next season) or Middleton ($40.4M next season, if he accepts his option), as well as a member of the Bucks’ rotation like Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, or Grayson Allen. Just to make the salaries work, the Bucks would have to give up a fair amount of talent...and they’re not exactly swimming in draft capital either. With all of their future first round draft picks spoken for through 2029 (between outgoing picks, pick swaps, and the Stepien Rule), Milwaukee simply doesn’t have a ton to offer in a deal.
And maybe that’s the point?
The Bucks have hard choices to make with regard to their salary situation, no matter what. But so do the Wizards, who are not a contender! It’s in Washington’s best interest to tear it down and start over. It’s possible (though highly debatable) that locking in an All Star-level guard like Bradley Beal could provide clarity to what the Bucks need for their roster, even if it costs them a member of their core, and that it might be the best the Wizards can do. The idea is already apparently circulating, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on a broadcast, “If Bradley Beal gets traded between now and next Thursday, I think people are going to be very surprised at the price and potentially how low it’s going to be because his contract is not attractive.”
It’s entirely likely that a team like Miami (who is also facing a serious salary crossroads of their own) can simply muster more assets to be able to make a Beal trade work better than the Bucks can. However, if general manager Jon Horst thinks that there is a “buy low” opportunity with Beal, it’s certainly worth investigating. After all, with a full-fledged no trade clause in his contract, Bradley Beal can literally control where he lands...and the Bucks and Heat were the only two teams mentioned in the reports earlier today.
Is Bradley Beal worth making a major deal for, or are the Bucks better off keeping the current squad together? That’s the question the team will have to answer in the coming weeks.