Odds of a Bradley Beal sign-and-trade, Kyle Kuzma’s future and more: Wizards mailbag

How likely are the Washington Wizards to sign-and-trade Bradley Beal this offseason?

Why don’t reporters “cover the Wizards honestly?”

Do the Wizards need to host a player for a draft workout in order to select him?

Could Kyle Kuzma be traded in the weeks ahead?

These are some of the questions you asked for the latest edition of The Athletic’s Wizards mailbag.

Let’s get to the answers!

(Editor’s note: Questions have been lightly edited for clarity and style. Click on the reader’s name to see questions as they were originally submitted.)

Josh, how likely is it that the Wizards do a sign-and-trade for Beal? I imagine they would try to let Beal pick the team somewhat. Thanks. –Ron D.

Josh, before I begin, I’d like to formally invite you to make-believe land where a lot of what I’m about to say is actually happening — and is coincidentally where I will be until the Wizards either end up terrible or great but most definitely not in this continued purgatory. As you’re well aware, the Jazz have some questions to figure out this offseason. What percentage chance would you think is fair to hope for a trade which would bring Donovan Mitchell to the Wizards and send Beal to the Jazz? They would both get a fresh start. Beal would get to be on a winning team. Mitchell would continue to be the unquestioned face of a franchise and still have legit starters next to him.

Would a package like Beal, either Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (or maybe even Kuzma), plus a pick from a third team do the trick? In this scenario, the Wizards would put Mitchell at point and watch Corey Kispert play for another year or sign a mid-tier player in free agency at shooting guard. Thoughts? –@Zaid D.

For a sign-and-trade deal to occur, the player who is being signed and then immediately traded — in this case, Beal — must agree to the transaction. In other words, the Wizards would not be permitted under league rules to sign Beal and then move him without his consent. (Outside of a sign-and-trade, the earliest the Wizards would be allowed to trade Beal would be either three months after his new contract is signed or Dec. 15 of that cap year, whichever is later.)

So even if the Wizards and another team both wanted to engineer a Beal sign-and-trade, Beal would have to be on board with the idea.

Financially for Beal, it would be better to re-sign with the Wizards than it would be to agree to a sign-and-trade. Because the Wizards hold Beal’s Bird rights, they are the only team allowed to offer him a five-year contract and the only team that can give him year-over-year salary increases of up to 8 percent of his salary in the first year of his new contract. By my calculations, with a cap figure of $122 million, a five-year max deal between Beal and the Wizards could top out at $247.7 million total.

In a sign-and-trade, under league rules, a new contract for Beal could be no longer than four seasons and include no higher than year-over-year salary increases of 5 percent of his salary in the first year of his new contract. Under those circumstances, a four-year max deal would top out at $183.6 million.

If financial considerations are paramount for Beal, he should prefer a five-year contract at nearly $248 million (if the Wizards would go that high) rather than a four-year contract at nearly $184 million.

If loyalty to the Wizards is a significant consideration for Beal, then that, too, would indicate he would want to remain.

Indeed, Beal said in March he is leaning toward re-signing with Washington, and Wizards president and general manager Tommy Sheppard has said the team wants to re-sign Beal. No reporting has emerged since then that Beal or team officials have changed their minds.

So for all of these reasons and more, I think it’s overwhelmingly unlikely that the Wizards and Jazz would agree to a sign-and-trade that would send Beal to Salt Lake City and Mitchell to Washington.

I know there have been rumblings that Mitchell is concerned about the Jazz’s direction following Quin Snyder’s departure. But I cannot see any circumstance in which Utah’s front office would want to trade Mitchell for Beal unless Mitchell soon demands a trade, which, from afar, doesn’t appear in the offing. Mitchell will be 26 in the season ahead and will remain under team control until at least the summer of 2025 — and he’s set to earn “only” $34.8 million in 2024-25. Beal will be 29 in the season ahead, was less productive than Mitchell last season and figures to earn a first-year salary in his new deal of up to $42.7 million.

In other words, Mitchell is at least as productive as Beal, is younger than Beal and has a less expensive contract than the one Beal is due to sign. So I would have to estimate the chances of a Wizards-Jazz sign-and-trade at less than 1 percent.

Why don’t you and other local reporters cover the Wizards honestly and highlight how utterly hopeless they are under Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld’s clone of a general manager? This team has been one of the worst franchises in the league for years, with no hope in sight, especially with the pending Beal extension. What gives? Do you lose access if you speak truth in the media and call them out? We fans deserve so much better, and you all in the media need to hold the team accountable. –@David L.

I encourage readers to critique my work and provide constructive criticism. If you think a piece is poorly reported or poorly written, say so, and please explain why. If readers disagree with any of my conclusions, say so and please describe your reasoning.

All of that is fair game.

But don’t say I’m journalistically dishonest.

No statement could be more inaccurate than that.

I understand that the Wizards re-signing Beal for $247 million over five years would demoralize or infuriate many fans. And I know how desperate the Wizards’ fan base is for a consistent winner after four-plus decades marked mostly by futility. It would be impossible not to recognize the franchise’s mistakes of the past, such as overpaying Gilbert Arenas and John Wall.

Fans are wonderful. Without them, professional sports would not exist. Without readers or viewers who bring curiosity and passion to the table, as you do, where would journalism be?

I’m a journalist who happens to cover sports, and my obligation is to report, write and analyze honestly, to tell both sides to every story as best I can. Journalists can be passionate about their roles but approach their roles with objectivity.

I have been clear about what’s at stake with the Beal situation. I have asked Sheppard about the potential negatives of offering Beal a five-year max contract. I have sought, and will continue to seek, the opinions of front-office experts. I have asked to interview Leonsis to ask him the pressing questions that should be asked; I have not yet received a definitive response to that request, by the way.

This is not a topic The Athletic, David Aldridge or I have shied away from. The exact opposite is true, in fact. I’ve written that a five-year, $245 million contract for Beal would be a significant overpay that likely will leave the Wizards spinning on the hamster wheel of mediocrity. I repeated myself a few weeks later.

But I don’t view the team’s future as “utterly hopeless,” as you do.

A max deal for Beal would significantly narrow the team’s pathway toward contention, leaving it little room for error along the way, but a path still would exist. The Wizards would have to find a franchise-changing prospect outside of the early lottery and/or package young players and draft capital for an All-Star, as John Hollinger has said. Beal would have to return to his 2019-20 and 2020-21 form, or close to it. And the team also would have to develop the players it already has.

I agree with others who have written that the time to trade Beal was two years ago, when his value was at its highest. But to see him walk now for no one and no draft capital in return would be a mistake.

Would it be safe to say we fans should focus on the players who don’t work out for the Wizards, because the Wizards rarely draft players who do? –Wesley H.

The Wizards would not hesitate to draft the best available player even if he had not participated in one of the team’s workouts.

Workouts are useful pieces of the draft process, but they’re typically not the be-all and end-all unless something out of the ordinary happens. For instance, I’ve heard of instances of players who sabotaged their draft chances with other teams by not being ready to attend that day’s workout on time even though they arrived in town the day before.

To put it another way: A player could have the day of his life at a workout, but one stellar workout almost certainly would not make up for, say, a college season’s worth of subpar performances. A team’s talent evaluators see a prospect so often over the course of those players’ amateur or international careers that they already should have a strong grasp of his strengths and weaknesses whether or not he works out for them.

There is no league rule that requires teams to disclose the names of workout participants. So though the Wizards have announced a steady stream of prospects who have worked out for them — including G League Ignite’s Dyson Daniels, Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis and Kentucky’s TyTy Washington Jr. — it is possible the team has conducted, or will conduct, additional sessions that we don’t hear about until right before the draft or after the draft.

Last year, for instance, the Wizards worked out Kispert at Capital One Arena close to the draft without publicizing the session. Then they drafted Kispert at No. 15.

Could Kuzma be on the move? He may be heading for a payday that the Wizards may not be willing or able to give next summer. Is it reasonable to believe the Wizards could re-sign Hachimura and Avdija for a combined sum that’d be nearly equal to Kuzma’s next contract, which would allow them to collectively fill his role (playmaking/secondary ballhandling forward)? –Tosin O.

Yes, Kuzma potentially could be on the move this offseason even though he was Washington’s best crunchtime player in 2021-22 and arguably was the team’s most productive player overall.

Kuzma is set to earn $13.0 million in 2022-23 — a bargain sum especially if he can duplicate or surpass his stats from last season of 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

The Wizards must address two issues with him, though. He started the season well on defense, but his play on that end waned after he began to place more emphasis on his offense. In that sense, his defensive performance mirrored pretty much everyone else’s on the team.

But beyond that, as you said, unrestricted free agency looms in the near future. If Kuzma performs well in the season ahead, it would be a no-brainer for him to decline his $13.0 million player option for the 2023-24 season and test unrestricted free agency.

And this is where a massive new contract for Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis’ $36.0 million player option for 2023-24 could come into play. Having Beal and Porziņģis both under contract at large sums during the summer of 2023 would make it difficult for the Wizards to make another high-money outlay, in this case to Kuzma. The team would retain Kuzma’s Bird rights and therefore could go over the cap in order to re-sign him, but at some point, it cannot afford to retain everybody it wants to retain without going into luxury-tax territory — and Leonsis does not want to go into the luxury tax.

So, yes, it may make sense for the Wizards to trade Kuzma now rather than see him potentially walk for nothing in 2023. (It also would make sense for the team to at least sound out Kuzma now to gauge whether he might prefer the security of a long-term extension this offseason instead of risking injury in the year ahead.)

You mentioned Avdija and Hachimura. You’re right: The forward spots are positions of relative strength for Washington.

Both Avdija, 21, and Hachimura, 24, do some things very well — one-on-one defense and secondary ballhandling in Avdija’s case and scoring and 3-point shooting in Hachimura’s. But I haven’t seen enough from them yet for me to be certain they’ll become dependable two-way players.

Kuzma, 26, at least has shown he can be a high-level player on both ends, though not always simultaneously. His biggest task in the season ahead is to prove that he can be a consistent two-way player.

Kyle Kuzma averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season. (Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)

To me, the Wizards’ biggest need this offseason is just more talent, and even more to the point, I think they need players with high upside. To that end, though the need for a long-term point guard is obviously glaring, do you think it would be beneficial for them to try and acquire the best/highest-upside player they can this offseason, even if that position is at forward? Or do you think the need for a point guard is too great even if they’re unable to add as high-upside of a player as they otherwise could? Presumably they’d have to trade away at least one or two of their forwards in any trade anyway, so it wouldn’t add to the roster imbalance. –@Tom S.

The need for a point guard is very real, but I think they should draft the best available player at No. 10 regardless of position, unless that player ultimately would not be an upgrade over the personnel the team already has.

(For the record, I’m intrigued by D.A.’s argument that the Wizards should try to move up to No. 3 or No. 4.)

Is it possible the team’s first-round pick next week will be a point guard who eventually earns the starting job as a rookie? Yes, it’s possible.

But I still think the most likely route for Washington to find its starting point guard in 2022-23 will be via a trade.

(Top photo of Bradley Beal: Jerome Miron / USA Today)

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