WASHINGTON (AP) – The Washington Wizards wasted no time in locking up shooting guard Bradley Beal, agreeing to a five-year maximum contract worth $128 million not long after the free agent market’s opening bell Friday.
The sides started talks as soon as possible, just after midnight Eastern, and moved quickly to wrap things up in the morning, agent Mark Bartelstein said. The deal cannot be signed until the free agent moratorium ends on July 7.
Beal, a St. Louis native, averaged 17.4 points in his fourth season for the Wizards. He has teamed with John Wall to form one of the most dynamic young backcourts in the NBA but has had difficulty staying healthy. Beal has never played more than 70 games in a season and has been bothered by stress fractures in his right leg throughout his career.
He played in only 55 games with 35 starts during Washington’s disappointing 2015-16 season. But he just turned 23 and the Wizards are banking on his ability to put those injuries behind him as they try to push back into the playoff field in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards have designs on landing some other big names on the free agent market, so Beal’s deal will not be signed until Washington knows who else will be coming from outside the organization. The Wizards have so-called Bird Rights on Beal, meaning they can go over the salary cap expected to be around $94 million to keep him. The clause in the collective bargaining agreement, named after Larry Bird, gives teams an advantage in retaining players.
The deal makes Beal the highest paid player on the Wizards by a wide margin, but Wall didn’t seem to have any gripes about that off the top.
“Congrats to my lil bro (at)RealDealBeal23,” Wall tweeted Friday. “Now everything on u lol…Welcome back !!”
One player the Wizards won’t be getting is the prize of the class: Kevin Durant. Earlier in the spring there was some hope in Washington that Durant would choose to leave Oklahoma City and come home to the D.C. area to join Wall and the rest of a team that appeared to be on the rise just two seasons ago. But it became apparent as the summer dragged on that Durant was not interested in a homecoming, so the Wizards are continuing their plan to build around that dynamic backcourt with a new coach in Scott Brooks.
When Beal is healthy, he brings a scoring touch from the perimeter to complement Wall’s quickness and penetration at point guard. Beal is a career 39.7 percent shooter from 3-point range and also has shown the ability to create his own shot and the versatility to play with the starting unit or come off the bench to provide instant offense.
Washington was one of the bigger disappointments in the league last season, going 41-41 and missing the playoffs in the muddled Eastern Conference a year after winning 46 games and advancing to the conference semifinals.
The Wizards made the switch from Randy Wittman to Brooks, but Beal’s ability to stay healthy and productive will prove critical to their plans of bouncing back next season.
Yahoo Sports first reported the agreement’s completion.
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