Why the Sixers won’t trade for Bradley Beal

The 2023 NBA offseason is expected to be a wild one, with the new collective bargaining agreement putting additional pressure on teams to sort out their balance sheets. More than ever, teams will have to weigh the risk and reward of pushing their chips in versus staying lean and mean, and that could mean big star moves over the next 8-12 months.

Bradley Beal seems to be the hot name in NBA rumors right now, which comes down to a few subtle factors.

  1. The Wizards have completely overhauled their front office, giving them fresh eyes on a situation that could charitably be described as “hopeless” in recent years. A ceiling score for the Wiz has scraped into the playoffs only to get stomped by a good team in the first round.
  2. The new front office seems to have permission to tear things down and/or rebuild, at least according to the public statements of Michael Winger. Ownership empowerment is something that gets glossed over by the public in favor of hoarding the executives who execute the broad plans they want, but Ted Leonsis being open to all avenues forward is an important development.
  3. The most important one, and one that we’ll expand on below — Beal is clearly miscast as the top dog in DC, and may be available cheaper than you’d think for a player at his level.

Those three points all matter, but it’s No. 3 that makes Beal’s trade candidacy so fascinating. He appears to be a very good player, two seasons removed from scoring 30 points per game. game in back-to-back seasons, but his contract puts him (and the team that has him) in a very strange spot. Beal is one of only 10 players in NBA history to have a true no-trade clause in their contract. The full list of players: Beal, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, John Stockton and David Robinson. It’s a who’s who of first-ballot Hall of Famers and NBA legends, followed by Beal.

While you can argue that any superstar-level guy always has enough influence to dictate where they want to go, there is at least the theoretical possibility that a team could move them somewhere other than their best option. Beal isn’t at a “superstar” level as a player if you ask me, but he has even more power than someone with NTC. Beal has the power to bomb any trade that doesn’t suit him, allowing him to manipulate the return the Wizards could get for him. But any team that buys him is picking up a player with an AAV over $50 million, which could lower the trade return for your team if things don’t work out.

The mammoth salary figure, topped by a $57 million player option for the 2026-27 season, puts an absurd amount of pressure on Beal to deliver NBA-level production to whoever has him on the roster. As we laid out while discussing the new CBA last week, teams that spend lavishly will be hit hard by new rules that limit their flexibility in trades, drafting and free agency.

(A quick refresher: Hold over the second berth, $17.5 million over the tax line, won’t be able to use the taxpayer’s mid-level exemption, can’t use cash in trades, can’t sign most traded players, can’t aggregate salaries in trades starting in 2024 and cannot trade in the first round seven years out. There are also new triggers for the NBA’s hard cap at the first bench level, making close salary comparisons in trades much more crucial.)

NBA insiders have hinted at how this will affect Beal’s market if it actually becomes relevant, and it’s important to note that Beal must will have to leave DC due to the no-trade clause. But assuming he can be convinced there are greener pastures outside of the DC humidity, it doesn’t sound like the Wizards will make a move for him.

The fun part for fans, of course, is imagining what Beal could do for their team and whether he makes them better. If we’re talking strictly about skill on the court, Beal would be an interesting candidate for the Sixers in a world where James Harden leaves this summer. He would replace some (but certainly not all) of Harden’s on-ball creation for others, offer a more traditional “two-guard” scoring mix with off-ball movement and shooting, and a built-in relationship with Joel Embiid from day one thanks to their connection through coach Drew Hanlen.

However, sources who spoke on condition of anonymity insisted the Sixers will not pursue Beal and are not interested in him as a long-term building block. The concerns on Philadelphia’s end are all the obvious ones outlined above. Committing $200 million to a player over the next four years under a CBA that punishes expensive teams is not a route they want to travel.

As the Sixers evaluate their options to operate over the cap, they won’t be moving quickly toward the second apron and all the limitations that come with it. Even if Beal was a perfect option, there would be fear in going after him. But when you consider the market variables alongside Beal’s own limitations — he’s played in just 90 games in two years, has taken fewer and fewer threes in recent years and hasn’t accomplished much of anything from a team perspective — he doesn’t scream “must acquire”, even if you simply flip the contract of Tobias Harris, a role player, and choose to get a deal done. You’re taking on a ton of risk for a theoretical upside that’s unclear, and maybe sacrificing future flexibility to do so.

The team still has some important decisions to make in the coming months. For example, what will James Harden’s next contract look like? A four-year maximum is not in the cards, so can the two parties agree on a structure that works for both parties? Time will tell if Harden is receptive to a 2+1 structure or a two-year deal with a bigger dollar value.

Also of great importance — what does Tyrese Maxey’s extension look like? The entire Philadelphia brain trust from the front office down to the floor is high on Maxey, and his next contract will take him from a cheap rookie deal to a big-money, produce-or-other contract that has major implications for future planning.

Beal’s name will be thrown around a ton until/unless he’s moved in the coming weeks, and as always, leave room in the “never say never” department in case someone changes their mind or the price gets too good to be true. But when it comes to the Sixers, it sounds like a definite no to Beal right now as the team continues to work on bringing Harden back to Philly.

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