The Washington Wizards and Bradley Beal could not come to terms with a contract extension, and that is no cause for concern. Beal has only played over 70 games once in his career and is a below-average playmaker, but he is one of the league’s best shooters at its weakest position. It’s safe to say that he is expecting a max contract, and Washington has every intention of re-signing Beal but wants to wait until the summer. By doing this, the Wizards will have a better chance of building a championship contending team.
The maximum-level contract extension Bradley Beal is seeking will probably start or be in the range of $21 million annually. This contract would have eaten up the available cap space the Wizards have this summer and affected their pursuit of big-name free agents, namely Kevin Durant. By holding off on Beal’s extension, the Washington Wizards will have roughly $7 million more during free agency.
Since they didn’t extend Beal, he only carries a cap hold of $14.2 million. A cap hold is a portion of a team’s salary cap held back for re-signing their own free agents and maintaining a minimum roster. Beal’s cap hold is $14.2 million or 250 percent of his previous salary, Beal’s current $5.7 million. If the Wizards and Beal agreed on an extension, his cap hold would have been the aforementioned $21 million. By deciding not to extend Beal’s contract now, the Wizards can afford to offer Durant the max.
Next summer, the salary cap will be at a record $89 million. The Washington Wizards only have five players under guaranteed contracts past this season: John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Kelly Oubre, Martell Webster and Otto Porter. The last year of Porter’s contract is a team option, but it’s very unlikely that the Wizards won’t pick it up so I’ll count it as a guaranteed contract. The last year of Kris Humphries’, Drew Gooden’s, and DeJuan Blair’s contracts are non-guaranteed, so the Wizards can waive them without impacting their financial flexibility.
If the Wizards renounce the rights to all their impending free agents like Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Nene and Gary Neal, they will be $32 million under the cap. According to Bobby Marks, Kevin Durant–a nine-year veteran–can earn a max contract worth $24.9 million in its first year. The Wizards will have enough money to sign Kevin Durant and fill out the roster with mid- to low-level free agents.
The San Antonio Spurs followed a similar course of action last season. The Spurs did not extend Kawhi Leonard’s contract last season, opting to wait until the summer to do so. By delaying Kawhi’s extension, the Spurs were able to sign free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to a max contract. Since Leonard didn’t sign an extension yet, his cap hold was based on his rookie contract, not the max that he was seeking. If the Spurs had extended Leonard’s contract first, the Spurs would not have been able to sign Aldridge.
Putting their current Kevin Durant plans aside, the Wizards’ decision to delay Beal’s extension was the prudent one. Because Bradley Beal is a restricted free agent, they can match any contract offered to him. There’s no real chance of losing Beal, and now they can pursue a franchise-altering player. The Wizards have given themselves the opportunity to be a force in the league for years to come.