Moore: Bradley Beal’s Fate in Washington, Potential Pelicans Moves, and More From Around the NBA
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images Pictured: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards.
The NBA season has been a rough one. Between a brutal schedule, constant interruptions due to COVID, the bizarre nature of games without fans, and wildly inconsistent performances night-to-night, the league is having a season most will be glad is behind them when all is said and done.
But like any other season, there are moves to be made and chatter behind the scenes to report on. With that said, some intel has started to filter out.
Here’s a quick look around the league.
The Beal Deal
By now you’ve probably seen the images of Bradley Beal questioning his decisions during Wizards blowouts.
First, on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Rockets:
And then his postgame comments:
Reporter: “Are you frustrated?”
Bradley Beal: “Is the sky blue?”
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) January 28, 2021
So it’s fair to ask if Beal is going to be traded, you know, immediately.
(Note: Beal himself has said social media is making too much out of his responses)
League sources have said for several weeks that Beal has indicated he does not want to be traded this season, if for no other reasons than the logistics and uncertainty during COVID. This is not exactly the best time to go through a major life change, given the global pandemic that continues to rage unstoppably.
However, these recent performances have indicated the pressure might be rising, and Beal might be convinced to go ahead and request out of D.C.
For the Wizards, sources from teams with no interest in Beal have suggested this is absolutely the time for the Wizards to move Beal before the situation becomes more poisonous.
If Russell Westbrook is a sunk cost, things will only deteriorate further, especially if Beal has his agent leak to the public that he’s demanding a trade. That will only further compromise their leverage.
The list of potential suitors for Beal will be long. The Warriors, Nuggets, Mavericks, and Raptors are natural fits, depending on what the Wizards ask for in return. These are speculative fits, not based on any known list of destinations or interested parties.
But with so many superstars garnering upwards of four first-round picks, how do you find an approximate value for Beal? Given what the Bucks gave up for Jrue Holiday, what’s Beal’s worth?
So is Beal getting traded?
The position has moved closer, for sure, since the start of the season, but the general sentiment from around the league is “not right now.”
Then again, the James Harden situation in Brooklyn went from “Not right now” to “today” after one press conference.
The situation remains unstable.
The Pels are a mess. They rank 18th in offense, having slowed to a halt with a young athletic roster, and are 23rd in defense. Their new pick-and-roll scheme, putting two-on-ball, has resulted in middling defensive performances, and they bleed into all other coverages.
The season is falling away from them quickly, despite great seasons from Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
It’s no secret that the backcourt has been made available. There were already rumors of a potential deal of Lonzo Ball for Kelly Oubre of the Warriors (along with compensation), which Steve Kerr addressed Wednesday:
Steve Kerr on the Kelly Oubre trade rumors: “It’s unfortunate. Team called us and asked about him. Didn’t even make an offer, asked about Kelly. Next thing it’s online.”
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 28, 2021
However, Ball has been made available in more broad discussions, according to multiple league sources. There’s not much conversation about Eric Bledsoe, whom the Pelicans acquired in the Holiday trade, but that’s more for lack of market given his contract.
Meanwhile, there’s interest in the organization to get more minutes for rookie Kira Lewis and conflicting information about whether that means Nickeil Alexander-Walker is available as well.
Ball is a difficult player to assess. Scouts love his awareness, basketball IQ, passing, and feel for the game. Analytics reflect a poor shooter who doesn’t actually impact things defensively. The eye test also shows a consistent issue with closeouts.
Ball is equally likely to make a brilliant deflection on a pass as a help defender as he is to get blown by on the perimeter after trying to make such a play and having to recover.
However, it should be noted the big issue is not Ball; it’s Ball-and-Bledsoe. When Bledsoe is on the court with Ball, the Pelicans are outscored by 2.7 points per 100 possessions. With Bledsoe on the bench and Ball on-court, they average 3.2 per 100. With Ball on the bench and Bledsoe on-court, they get destroyed by 8.7 points per 100 possessions.
So trade Bledsoe, right? Well, getting a good return for Bledsoe at this point is difficult, but there also continues to be the issue of how to find the right combination of skills next to Ball. He has an elite rim-running presence in Williamson and an elite shot creator in Ingram. At some point, it’s not about the other players.
Additionally, the numbers are better for the Pelicans with Zion and Ingram alongside Bledsoe and without Ball than they are with Ball or with Ball and without Bledsoe.
Finally, J.J. Redick is the other piece of this, a veteran who took a risk on a young team and seemed to be at wit’s end by the end of last season. But the Pelicans hired his old coach, Stan Van Gundy.
Redick is another player who could be on the move, and you can bet that contenders will be lining up if they decide to shop him aggressively.
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Teams Staying Cool
One of the big misnomers in NBA discussion is the idea that a struggling team needs to make a trade. Teams in those situations are inherently at a disadvantage, lacking leverage, and no one ever wants to make deals in those situations; that’s how general managers get fired by turning bad situations into worse trades.
The Denver Nuggets have righted their ship, but they had no real discussions on trades even when they were struggling.
The Orlando Magic, for the 85th year in a row, are not going to make any major shake-ups right now, despite a rash of injuries that may have buried their postseason chances.
Same for the Blazers, who are missing Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum but are determined to stay the course, according to league sources.