Last offseason, the Washington Wizards made Bradley Beal the 6th highest-paid player in the league with a contract value of over $43 million per year. The only five players with a larger annual salary are Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and John Wall. It is no coincidence that it was also the Washington Wizards that signed Wall to his contract, which was one of the worst contracts in the league for the last few years.
When it comes to Beal’s contract, the annual sum is not even the biggest problem- it’s the number of years and the no-trade clause.
In the summer of 2022, the Washington Wizards gave Beal his new five-year, maximum-salary deal with a no-trade clause, following a campaign that saw him miss more than half of the regular season with various injuries.
Even before he was ruled out for the season, Beal was not in serious All-Star contention and was amid his lowest efficiency offensive season since his third year in the league with a true shooting percentage of 53.9%. His number of three-pointers made, and three-point percentage were both career lows.
The decision to throw a sub-All-Star player a maximum salary with a no-trade clause made very little sense in the summer. Somehow, Beal’s performance this season has only made that deal look worse.
After this current season -in which he has already missed 20 out of the 44 games- Beal has three more guaranteed years, followed by a player option for the 2026-2027 season that will pay him over $57 million. If Beal will be at a sub-All-Star level and misses half of the games for the next few seasons, this contract is going to be an albatross that hinders the Wizards’ prospects and cap flexibility.
Only eleven players in the NBA have more guaranteed money in their contract than Beal. These are Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Kevin Durant, and Damian Lillard. Every single one of these players either played at an All-NBA first-team level in their careers or was a deserving All-Star last season. Most of them are even perennial MVP candidates.
The problems with Bradley Beal’s contract don’t even end with the high price tag.
It is important to note that no other player in the NBA has a no-trade clause. No other player, including any of the superstars mentioned above, have the right to veto a trade like Bradley Beal. This means that the Wizards cannot trade Beal without his consent or cannot receive the best return in a deal if Beal doesn’t want to play for the team with the best trade package.
This is front office malpractice. Going all-in on the best player on a team that has made the playoffs once (as an eight-seed) and won one playoff game in the last four seasons is an unforgivable mistake. This type of move not only prevents you from contending right now but also hinders you from making the right moves to contend in the future.
The six highest-paid players in the league next season are going to be Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic, in that order. One of these players is not like the others.
Yet, it is not too late. The Wizards can still alter course. They can still decide to rebuild and talk to Beal about finding him a new home. It is unclear whether Beal would have positive value on his contract, but if there is a scenario in which the Wiz take back bad but shorter contracts as well as some draft assets in exchange for Beal, they should most certainly consider doing that deal. If they don’t, then they will almost certainly have the worst contract in the NBA in their hands for a long time once again.
But, knowing the Wizards front office, I will not be holding my breath.