This summer is supposed to be a very pivotal one for the Washington Wizards. Despite appearing destined for years of contending with an impressive showing in last year’s playoffs, the Wizards failed to even qualify for the postseason his year, and were clearly negatively affected by the departure of Paul Pierce.
To right that ship, the Wizards are hoping they see a vast improvement among their young wing players Bradley Beal and Otto Porter, and have their fingers crossed that Kevin Durant is overcome by homesickness this July and decides to leave a Thunder team on the verge of completing the greatest Finals run in NBA history. Washington has already taken a step in that direction, and signed Scott Brooks, who coached Durant through the first 8 year of his career, and is a known member of the All-Star’s inner circle.
The Wizards’ next step may confuse some, but it shows the team’s dedication to its young potential stars. Beal is certainly not a max player on the surface, but he’s too valuable to the team for them to let him walk away for nothing this summer. He averaged 17.4 points and 2.9 assists in 55 games last year, but shot a career high 45% from the field to form one of the most underrated backcourts in the league with John Wall.
The other side to this is that, believe it or not, retaining Beal for max money reportedly puts the Wizards in a better position to go after another max player, namely Durant. Here’s a brief explanation via the Washington Post.
Retaining Beal, who earned $5.6 million last season, is the only way the Wizards can sign two max-contract players this summer. Washington decided to not give Beal a max extension last summer because they wanted to suppress his cap hold, the term for the amount a player’s salary counts toward his team’s cap. Beal’s cap hold will be around $14.2 million on July 1, affording the Wizards room to acquire another max player through free agency or trade.
The plan is to strike an accord with Beal immediately, but to wait to officially sign him until all the other pieces fall in place because they own his Bird Rights, a salary cap exception that allows teams to exceed the cap in order to re-sign their own players. If they sign him before signing other players, they’ll be limited by the hard cap. Sequence is important in efficiently utilizing the cap room they meticulously created for a shot at Kevin Durant or other available players in an effort to ascend into the league’s elite.
Whatever happens this summer, it’ll change the trajectory of several franchises, whether Durant leaves the Thunder or not.