By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief
There comes a time in every player’s career, no matter the sport, when “the next contract” becomes a reality. Athletes are anxious to get out of their rookie contract and seek the big bucks on the open market.
That’s where the Washington Wizards are at with Bradley Beal. Although Beal has dealt with injuries throughout his young career, the Wizards are likely going to have to give him a maximum contract if they want him to stick around with John Wall.
Beal has had three stress factures already in his three professional seasons, and most recently missed Friday’s game against the Cavaliers. This bout against a stress fracture doesn’t seem to be as serious as his previous ones, but the injury bug is certainly a concern, especially seeing players such as Jrue Holiday deal with stress factures his entire career.
Despite that, Washington needs to give Beal whatever he wants, even if it is a Klay Thompson-sized contract. This doesn’t necessarily mean a “max contract” by definition, but by the 2017-18 season, Thompson is going to be making $17.8 million per year.
That’s what Beal will likely ask for, and it’s what he should get.
To draw a parallel between sports, think about the NFL. Analysts and fans are always griping that quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton and Alex Smith signed large contracts just to be average quarterbacks. But it begs the question, “If not them, then who?”
Much like quarterback in the NFL, shooting guard in the NBA is a very shallow position. J.J. Redick is currently 12th among two-guards in points per game, and even Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks is fifth in field-goal percentage at the position.
In today’s NBA, any team that wants to make a run at the championship needs to have two functioning All-Stars. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the Thunder. Thompson and Stephen Curry for the Warriors. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver (plus Al Horford and Paul Millsap) for the Atlanta Hawks.
That’s the problem the Toronto Raptors are falling into right now. Kyle Lowry has been amazing, but no one else on their roster is playing consistently well enough for them to be considered real contenders in the Eastern Conference.
If the Wizards want to be title contenders going forward (any possible Durant talk aside) they need to keep Wall and Beal together.
If Beal was to walk to pursue a larger contract, then who can the Wizards get to replace him?
There are only 11 shooting guards this season who are averaging 15 or more points per game, and Beal is one of them. Out of that group, only two of them are shooting better than 40 percent from three: Thompson and Beal.
Barring a massive implosion on the Warriors somehow, Thompson isn’t going to become available anytime soon, and better three-point shooters such as Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews are specialists.
Beal does a little bit of everything, but Matthews and Korver were born to just shoot from beyond the arc.
Beal is only one of five players in the three-point era of the league (starting in 1979) in his first three seasons to averaged 15.5 points per game, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc, have a Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) value of over 2.2 and an offensive rating (the estimated number of points a player scores per 100 possessions) of at least 101.
The other four are Curry, Thompson, Hersey Hawkins and (surprisingly) Ben Gordon.
Curry is probably the best shooter us 20-somethings will see in our entire lives, Thompson is the best two-way shooting guard in the game right now, and while Hawkins isn’t in the Hall of Fame, he was a career 39.4 percent shooter from three and averaged 16.3 points per 36 minutes for his career.
That’s quite the company to keep for Beal.
To continue the Thompson comparison (I’m not saying their games are similar, but they’re going to have similar contracts), Beal has actually been putting up similar numbers to those that Thompson had during his first three seasons in the league.
Between 2012 and 2014 for Thompson and 2013 to now for Beal, Beal averages just 0.4 points per game less, and averages more rebounds, assists, steals and has a higher player efficiency rating.
Thompson is a better three-point shooter than Beal and has simply been healthier (Thompson played 229 games through his first three seasons compared to 171 so far for Beal).
Keep in mind that Thompson was almost traded this offseason for Kevin Love, and is now considered a part of the best backcourt in the league next to Curry.
Wall isn’t nearly the shooter that Curry is, but if the Wizards want to be competitive not only in the East, but in the NBA, it would be impossible to assume Beal is going to be injured for the rest of his career and pass on giving him a max deal.