As they search for direction going forward the San Antonio Spurs should have their eyes set on bringing Bradley Beal to the Alamo City.
For decades the San Antonio Spurs have been viewed as one of the smartest, most well-run franchises in American sports. Their legendary run of playoff appearances, with more than a few titles mixed in along the way, is one of the most impressive runs in NBA history. But as much credit as we give the Spurs leadership for putting together competitive roster after competitive roster, they’ve also gotten incredibly lucky.
After the Big Three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan retired, the Spurs fortunes declined rapidly. They’ve made the playoffs every year since the three greats set off into the sunset but they’ve never been quite as threatening as they once were. The one thing they’ve been missing is a star who can carry them back to that upper echelon of teams.
As the centerpiece of the trade that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto, Spurs fans hoped that DeMar DeRozan could be that star. To his credit, DeRozan has been fine for San Antonio. He’s played some of his best basketball in the silver and black and has been the one guy the Spurs can really lean on for stretches at a time.
But, as was the case in Toronto, questions remain about his ability to lead a championship-level team. If the Spurs feel that DeRozan isn’t the long-term solution on the wing there is another high-volume scorer who is begging to be rescued from the Eastern Conference.
The Washington Wizards poor record already cost Bradley Beal an All-Star spot this season. If he doesn’t escape the capitol soon they could cost him his prime too. The Spurs should make acquiring Beal their number one priority this summer.
Next: Why would the Wizards move Beal?
Why would the Wizards trade Bradley Beal?
As one of the best players in the league on a consistently disappointing team, Beal has been the subject of trade rumors for years. He’s been loosely linked to seemingly every team that’s in need of a star shooter (so, almost all of them) but the rumors have never amounted to much.
Even earlier this year the Wizards reiterated to Brad Botkin of CBS News that they viewed Beal as a franchise cornerstone and had no interest in trading him. A fair stance to take. They have been missing John Wall as the star guard continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles. But who’s to say that Wall will be the same when he returns, or that Beal will still want to be in Washington at that point?
Tell me, does this look like the face of a player who’s enjoying his season? That’s Beal sitting on the sidelines watching his team lose to the Chicago Bulls after he poured in a career-high 53 points. Beal’s a pro’s pro but even he has been open about how the losses have been wearing on him this year.
After one particularly frustrating loss, he spoke with Kurt Helin of NBC Sports about how this season has taken a toll on him.
“I don’t like losing. I’m sorry — especially winnable games… I don’t like losing, so [my frustration is] gonna keep building up for me until we starting winning and changing our culture.”
If a winning culture is important to Beal, and it sounds like it is, he would be hard-pressed to find a team with a stronger culture than the Spurs. The last two years have been rough but the winning culture that’s been built over the past two decades is still strong in San Antonio.
As we saw this summer with Paul George, there’s very little a team can do when a star player decides they want out. Player empowerment and movement are at an all-time high right now and if Beal decides it’s time for him to leave DC there’s only so much the Wizards can do to keep him there. He’s bound by his contract but he can sure make life difficult for the team if they were to decide not to bend to his request.
Next: What would the Spurs have to give up
What would the Spurs have to give up?
The Spurs would have to offer a king’s ransom of a trade package. Beal is an All-NBA level talent entering the prime of his career. He’s one of the best all-around offensive players in the game and Washington wouldn’t move him for just anything.
An interesting hypothetical to entertain would be a sign and trade deal centered around DeMar DeRozan and Beal. If the Wizards would be more inclined to shoot for the playoffs again and view pairing DeRozan and John Wall as a way to make that happen then the Spurs could be able to add enough to the pot to make things happen.
If San Antonio was really serious about bringing in Beal, every asset they have would have to be on the table. Dejounte Murray might be the only one who would be held back, both due to the positional overlap with Wall and his importance to the team, but every player and asset in the Spurs war chest would have to be in play.
As much as Spurs fans love Lonnie Walker, the front office would be out of their minds to walk away if Washington demanded that he be included. For all the potential he has shown, that’s all we’ve seen: potential. Beal is a real-deal, bona fide superstar in his prime. If the Wizards demanded Walker be included in any deal that sends Beal away then so be it.
The razor-thin silver lining on the Spurs potentially missing the playoffs this year has been the return to the draft lottery. It’s something that hasn’t happened to this franchise since 1997 and it would be interesting to see what the front office could do with their highest draft pick in over twenty years.
But that pick, as well as another first down the road, would likely have to be included in any larger deal that gets San Antonio the star they need.
Next: Beal's potential fit with the Spurs
Beal’s fit with the Spurs
One of the best things about Beal’s game is how easily it meshes with almost any style. Unlike other stars like Ben Simmons or James Harden, Beal doesn’t need to play within an offense that solely caters to his preferred method of attack.
He’s equally comfortable putting the ball on the floor and attacking the basket or spotting up for easy looks from outside. He’s having a bit of a down year in terms of 3-point percentage but has knocked down 37 percent of his looks from deep over the course of his career.
One area of Beal’s game that has drastically improved over the past three years has been his playmaking ability. As John Wall missed more and more time due to a variety of injuries, Beal was asked to run more of the offense. He stepped up and has gradually increased his assist numbers in each of the last four years. He’s now setting up teammates on 28.4 percent of the Wizards’ possessions when he is on the floor.
Beal could seamlessly slide into the role currently occupied by DeRozan. He’s a top tier scorer, currently ranked fourth in points per game, and a skilled playmaker. He could function with or without Dejounte Murray as his running mate, similar to how the Spurs run their offense now. Imagine if DeMar suddenly fell in love with three’s and started putting up eight per game? That should give you a rough idea of what the fit would look like.
The duo of John Wall and Beal wasn’t able to take the Wizards where they’d like to go and that’s not likely to change with Wall coming back from injury and the Giannis Antetokounmpo led Bucks putting the Eastern Conference in a chokehold. If Washington decides that it’s time to hit the reset button the Spurs should be ready to pounce.