Washington Wizards trade Bradley Beal to Phoenix Suns

Washington Wizards trade Bradley Beal to Phoenix Suns

The Washington Wizards agreed to trade Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns, two people close to the situation confirmed Sunday, dealing the star guard from the only NBA team he has ever known and setting in motion a rebuild that officially opens the Michael Winger era in Washington. This is the first transaction of the team’s new-look front office led by Winger, the recently hired president of Monumental Basketball.

Beal is set to join fellow all-stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker with the Suns, although the particulars of the deal may not be finalized for days. Washington is expected to receive guards Chris Paul and Landry Shamet, second-round picks and pick swaps to be determined. Delaying the finalization of the deal opens the possibility that a third team will become involved to find a home for Paul with a contender. ESPN first reported a Beal trade was being finalized.

Washington had little leverage to make a deal for Beal because the no-trade clause that came with the five-year, maximum contract Beal signed in July meant any transaction needed the guard’s approval.

One of the Wizards’ primary goals in clearing Beal off the books — he is owed roughly $207 million over the next four seasons — was to acquire draft equity, with the knowledge that they probably wouldn’t receive players of Beal’s caliber or upside in return. Paul, while a future Hall of Fame point guard, turned 38 in May.

The trade gives Washington the opportunity for a fresh start under Winger and new general manager Will Dawkins and closes a long chapter in Wizards history.

Beal, who turns 30 on June 28, arrived as the third pick of the 2012 draft and spent most of his 11-year career alongside John Wall before ascending to become the franchise cornerstone when Wall was traded in 2020. A three-time all-star, the shooting guard helped Washington to the playoffs five times, but the Wizards never got past the second round.

Leaguewide, Beal’s reputation revolves around his top-notch scoring ability. With the Wizards, part of his legacy will forever be tied to Wall.

The pair’s relationship was often described as a brotherhood — seven seasons on the court together that vacillated from familial love to locker-room tiffs that at times grew into more serious resentment. But when they worked in harmony, their partnership lifted the Wizards to the edge of national relevance — and to the second round of the playoffs in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

It wasn’t until Wall was sidelined by knee surgery during the 2017-18 season that Beal was forced to exit his comfort zone as “just” a scorer and shoulder more ballhandling and playmaking duties. He had the best season of his career alongside Russell Westbrook in 2020-21, averaging 31.3 points and shooting 48.5 percent. He averaged 23.2 points on a career-best 50.6 percent shooting this past season.

Yet Beal serving as the face of the franchise during a five-year stretch with just one playoff appearance often made him the subject of fan ire, which only intensified in recent years. Injuries began piling up, too, and he missed 74 games over the past two seasons with various maladies.

Beal was nonetheless highly favored by Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis and former general manager Tommy Sheppard. The pair signed him to a five-year supermax contract worth $251 million in July; it came with a rare no-trade clause and a 15 percent trade kicker that was voided in Sunday’s deal, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Sheppard was fired April 19 after the Wizards fell short of the postseason again. Winger was hired May 24 and given the green light to rebuild the roster — a process that will continue Thursday at the draft, when the Wizards are slated to select eighth but will look at all options to maximize their opportunity.

There are more items on Winger’s to-do list. Finding Paul a home is one, and making a decision about center Kristaps Porzingis, who holds a $36 million player option for next season, is another.

Porzingis’s representatives had opened discussions with Sheppard about an extension with the Wizards, with whom the Latvian has thrived since arriving at the 2022 trade deadline. But with the new front office, Porzingis may decide to opt in, take the money and plan to enter free agency in 2024 — a logical path for a 27-year-old whose timeline may not align with a reset.

Kyle Kuzma, the other member of the Wizards’ core last season, is set to hit free agency. And Winger will want to take a close look at Washington’s youth — namely forward Deni Avdija, sharpshooting guard Corey Kispert and 2022 lottery pick Johnny Davis — to see who fits as part of the foundation for a rebuild after the first brick was put in place Sunday.

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