Bradley Beal will undergo season-ending wrist surgery, likely changing Wizards course

Everything the Washington Wizards have done in recent years has been in an attempt to convince Bradley Beal to re-sign in D.C. long-term. His previous two-year extension was really a one-year extension with a bonus $36.4 million player option kicker and most importantly, a strategy to put him in a position to enter unrestricted free agency as a 10-year veteran able to be paid the maximum 35% of the salary cap. Little did anyone bet that Beal could have got the supermax last summer after making All-NBA third team that John Wall previously took advantage of. The three-time All-Star could leave the Wizards holding a bag of nothing since they have never entertained trading Beal at ownership’s direction more than anyone else.

On the heels of a mid-season collapse having lost 8 of their last 9 games entering the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline, the fan base almost unanimously wants to sell on Beal for a perceived haul of assets in return. In reality, unless Tommy Sheppard has been working in the shadows this whole time, it would be hard to get the best possible offer with so little time to start a bidding war and slim chance Beal would guarantee himself as more than a 4-5 month rental. Early Tuesday afternoon, 25-year old All-Star center and Wizards target Domas Sabonis got traded from Indiana to Sacramento for a bigger haul (Tyrese Haliburton who Sheppard passed on in favor of Deni Avdija in November 2020) than Washington could muster up. Just three hours later, the Wizards announced that Bradley Beal would undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist suffered on January 28 at Memphis.

The salt in the wound is Beal suffered the injury with the road team getting blown out by 20+ points in the second half and the current franchise cornerstone tried to take a charge and landed unfortunately on his wrist. You applaud that effort 99 percent of the time, but this was the 1% worst outcome. The play was re-run as highlights hundreds of times for Ja Morant’s exclamation point alley-oop finish (after successful Memphis challenge), but for Washington, it may have sent them headed for the draft lottery this season, and maybe that is the next best thing to selling somewhat high on Beal relative to nothing.

Washington is 24-29 and currently 11th in the Eastern Conference and unlikely to be competitive without their best player despite some of his more noticeable flaws this year, namely 3-point shooting as Beal shot a career-worst 30 percent from deep. Depending on the timing of Beal’s re-evaluation results on Tuesday with specialist Michelle G. Carlson, MD in New York, it could have forced Washington to back out of negotiations with Indiana clearing the way for Sacramento before the deadline or the opposite and pushing Beal towards surgery. Maybe neither if you take the organization at face value that this decision was completely independent of all other variables.

“Despite the last 10 days of getting intensive treatment and rehab on my wrist, it became clear that I would not be able to compete to my standards or to the level that our team and our fans deserve,” Beal said in a press release statement. “I’m disappointed to have my season end this way, but we all agreed that this was the best decision. I look forward to coming back at 100% and continuing to lead this team as we work together to build toward the future.”

The Wizards still have moves they should try to make over the next 36+ hours. They have several veteran players that could get some asset value back for the future, namely Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (although obviously Beal’s very good friend), and Thomas Bryant. Maybe they find the right avenue to offload a contract like Davis Bertans (3 years remaining at $49 million or $38 million dead) and/or Spencer Dinwiddie (two years remaining at $37 million or $28 million dead) although Sheppard typically is not quick to give up on an investment. I do not see how Washington could possibly consider buying at the deadline in a weak attempt to squeak into the play-in tournament so Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Corey Kispert should be safe, which may be a late hour shift.

There is still no given that Beal will re-sign in Washington as he has said for multiple years now that the most important thing to him is winning and the Wizards have failed to do that the last 5 years. Maybe the Wizards could get some assets in a sign-and-trade, but there are teams that will have the cap space to sign him without Washington’s help. For example, Portland just created a lot of cap space by moving CJ McCollum to New Orleans and Beal admires Damian Lillard from their brief time together on Team USA and in passing prior. Separately the Wizards should be calling about Tomas Satoransky being redirected back to D.C. in the POR-NOP trade to develop Washington’s youth the rest of this season. Sheppard’s best pitch to retain Beal is the organization treats him like a king and 5-years, $246 million is better than 4-years, $182 million that another team could max out at to sign him. Beal could also just force his way out of D.C. in a year or two and not be as attractive of an asset with that contract paying him until age 33.

We may never know if Sheppard had any inclination to move Beal anytime over the last year if given the opportunity to do so by ownership. Amid the surprise of Monumental Basketball president Sashi Brown leaving for the same role with the Baltimore Ravens and the awe of assistant coach Mike Batiste potentially charging an inappropriately heckling fan in the stands, the Wizards organization is on shaky ground. The knockout blow may have just landed with Beal playing the fewest games in a season in his career (40).

As the late Flip Saunders once said, “don’t ever think it can’t get any worse because it can. There’s no question it can.”