Bradley Beal contract among worst in the NBA? Not so fast

Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

From the moment Bradley Beal agreed to terms on a new contract with the Washington Wizards there was a decent amount of negative reaction. Once it was confirmed his new supermax deal included a no-trade clause, that negative reaction got even stronger.

It seemingly took no time at all for the popular narrative to be ‘Bradley Beal has one of the worst contracts in the NBA today’. Recently, The Sporting News added a bit of fuel to that flame when they released their ‘Best and Worst NBA Contracts’.

As one might predict, Bradley Beal made the list of the worst contracts in the NBA. He ranked quite high (low?), in fact, but should he? Is this ranking, and the quick reaction of many to the deal, correctly assessing the situation?

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Bradley Beal is being Undervalued as more people knock him and his contract

As a basketball player, we’re getting to the point where many people are going to enter next season completely undervaluing Bradley Beal. On a dollar-per-dollar basis, his deal doesn’t look nearly as good as some of the other top-paid contracts in today’s NBA. By no means will this deal ever be close to a bargain for the Wizards, either.

With those caveats established, we can dive into why Beal’s contract can’t be thrown around with the current worst deals across the league.

A common assumption made when evaluating Beal’s contract and the Wizards outlook is that he is locked in for decent regression each season moving forward. In the most simple evaluation, one can say a player at his age (29 years old) will likely regress each year moving forward.

That can be said if all things are equal, but with Beal, we have a specific situation. He is coming off a very poor season that saw him shoot far worse than he ever has in his NBA career. He’s either a pretty bad shooter suddenly, after many years of being a great shooter, or that season was an outlier that was to some degree caused by the situation.

The safe bet is on last season being an outlier in terms of outside shooting. Beal was trying to create a bit more than is natural for him last year and the surrounding talent simply didn’t allow him to play his game in the most efficient manner.

He’s going to shoot better than the 30 percent he shot from three last season. With a few more playmakers and even some scoring help (Kristaps Porzingis), Beal should get back to being a lethal offensive weapon and instead of seeing a regression this season, he should actually see a bump in his numbers across most categories.

The argument about his contract will then shift to a few years from now when Beal is into his 30s, with critics asking how it will look then. Some say without pause it will be the worst deal in the NBA in a few seasons.

That’s assuming quite a bit. First off, you never know what team is going to pay what player in the coming years. Most importantly, though, Beal doesn’t have the same major flaws players who have had those ‘burden’ contracts have had on the court.

In the last few seasons, the contracts of players such as John Wall and Russell Westbrook have been commonly referred to as among the worst contracts in the league. Both, at certain times in recent years, simply had fallen too far from their peaks and were making far too much money. The cherry on top for both players was their inability to shoot well from deep.

Those contracts become that much heavier when you have a player that can’t space the floor in today’s NBA. Neither were ever great shooters, so the shooting not being great wasn’t some sort of a surprise.

With Beal, there’s a lot of reason to assume he will carry that attribute for many years moving forward. He can be squeezed onto a roster at his high salary and be the second or third option while not being a burden to others. THAT kind of stuff plays a major role in the worst contracts across the league.

Bradley Beal certainly has a lot of work to do. There’s a route to seeing how his deal winds up being among the worst in the NBA someday down the road, but it simply isn’t there yet and likely won’t ever be in true contention.

The one major flaw will always be the no-trade clause in the deal. That alone doesn’t make it a terrible contract in today’s NBA, though. The fact of the matter regarding the clause is the Wizards went above and beyond to do what they thought was right for Beal.

With how the NBA’s salary cap works and the rules in place, this contract isn’t going to be preventing the Wizards from getting better at any point in the next five years. It’s a massive deal and takes up a lot of cap space, but the max was the going rate for the Wizards to retain Beal and if they didn’t retain him, they’d focus on finding similar talent to replace him in the coming years.

There simply is no reasonable case for Beal to be referred to as one of the worst contracts at this point. Everyone will benefit from waiting before dropping their takes on this subject because the 2022-23 season will be a different Beal than we saw in 2021-22.

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