Trade Analysis: Bradley Beal to Memphis

The basketball bloggers’ heads have been running wild this summer, trying to find ways to improve their teams’ roster by creating fake trade deals. Some are more intriguing and mutually beneficial than others. One trade proposal from Bleacher Report involved Memphis and Washington. The Grizzlies are in need of the third member to their future three-headed monster. Obviously they have Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson, but adding a third All-Star level player will likely make the difference between future title bouts or muffled playoff runs.

One player that many Grizzlies fans have had their eye on is two-time All-Star Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards. Beal is a certified bucket getter and averaged just over 30 points per contest this season while shooting 35% from three. He has averaged over 22 points in each of the last four seasons with Washington. Beal is under contract until 2021-22 and has a player option for 2022-23. His salary is projected to be around $29mm next season and $34 the year after that, with his player option worth $37mm.

One of the larger questions here is why would the Wizards want to trade away one of their best players, and one of the better players in the league? The answer is that the Wizards roster — as currently constructed around expensive veterans John Wall and Brad Beal — has likely hit its ceiling. Since both guys have been on the roster, the Wizards have made the playoffs 4 times and never made it past the conference semifinals. John Wall is banged up and injury prone and the 5-time All-Star is on contract the same length as Beal, but making in excess of 40 million dollars in each of his remaining seasons. This seriously handcuffs the Wizards’ front office in terms of roster flexibility. No one wants the albatross Wall contract because it has a negative value at this point, while trading Beal away could result in a serious return from a team wanting to take that next step.

All that being said, let’s dive into the proposed trade and see why each team should and shouldn’t make the move.

Proposed Trade

Grizzlies receive: Bradley Beal

Wizards receive: Brandon Clarke, Justise Winslow, Dillon Brooks, 2020 1st round pick (via Utah), and 2022 1st round pick (Memphis own)

Why Memphis should make the trade

The short answer is that Brad Beal is an All-NBA talent and adding his scoring ability to the Grizzlies roster would immediately propel them into the mix as one of the teams in the hunt for gold in the inevitable post-Warriors and post-LeBron era.

I’m not gonna lie, giving away that huge cache of players and picks would be tough. But nailing a first round pick requires a lot of luck and skill. Plenty of teams spend an extended amount of time wallowing in the NBA lottery without much to show for it. Neither of those first round picks in this scenario will be high enough (hopefully 2022 is a good season for Memphis) for the Grizzlies to snag a talent anywhere near the level of Beal.

Brandon Clarke has been such a success for the Grizzlies this season. He is an efficiency monster, but the question I find myself asking is: can you win a title with him as your third best player? If he is your fourth or fifth best and your first three options are crazy good, then yeah, I think you have a chance. However, right now I’m not optimistic.

Justise Winslow has yet to play minute for Memphis, so he is the biggest wildcard here for me. Winslow is a defensive stalwart and can keep multiple positions at bay, leaving Ja Morant the energy to dazzle us with his offensive prowess. Like Clarke, Winslow is 23, but he is already in his 5th year in the league. His presence would certainly increase the potency of Memphis’ 16th ranked defense, while providing some extra strength on the offensive end as well. His salary of $13mm makes him a good trade chip in this deal. I’m probably the most hesitant to add Winslow to this trade, just because there is so much we still don’t know. But after saying that, I do know what Memphis would get in Beal and that’s worth it.

Memphis fans have grown to love the over-confident Canadian Dillon Brooks. Brooks just signed a contract extension with Memphis through the 2022-23 season making around $12 per season. His consistent defense, good size, and frequently potent shooting make him a good fit on any roster. However, I’ll make the same case with him as I did with Clarke — what is the ceiling for your team if DB is a starter? Put him as the 4th or 5th option and I’m confident he can win you some games with his scoring ability. However, right now he is third on the Grizzlies in scoring at 15.7 per game and first in shot attempts. Love the guy and he’s a great role player, but third in the pecking order seems like a little high — he’s no Klay Thompson.

Overall, adding an experienced veteran who can immediately be your number one option brings with it a higher upside than holding onto a trio of role players who fill out your #3 to #6 slots with above average (solid) output.

Why Washington should make the trade

No way the Wizards win a title with Beal and Wall as their best two players. There simply isn’t enough money left on the table to bring in another 5-star guy and fill out a roster. Plus, With John Wall recovering from another injury, who is to say if he will every make it back to his All-Star form now that he is in his late twenties.

Right now, the trade value for Beal is at its highest. If the Washington front office is thinking of pivoting away from their two stars and attempting to re-tool themselves, this is a perfect opportunity. Each of the guys they would get from Memphis have a high enough trade value that Washington could even choose to send them elsewhere in return for even more assets. Memphis took this same route when trading away franchise cornerstone Mike Conley. They took their returns and are continuing to capitalize on them.

Why Memphis shouldn’t make the trade

Make no bones about it, it would be a tough pill to swallow for Memphis to give up two young players who they drafted outside of the lottery. For this franchise, hitting on those kinds of picks has been rare.

By going forward with this trade, the Grizzlies would essentially be putting all their eggs in the Beal basket, asking him to do the work of up to five players — if you count the draft picks. And if this trade were to not work out, say due to injury or otherwise, Memphis fans would not easily forget.

Sometimes a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. You know the young talent that exists on the roster currently and the front office just worked hard to sign Brooks to a reasonable deal. Why would they go and move him onto another team when he has been the wildcard on the season. When he plays well, this team wins almost every time.

The Grizzlies already made their “get better now” trade when they traded Andre Iguodala to Miami for Winslow. That was the move designed to put Memphis over the top. There is no need to try and take a huge risk by moving off two homegrown guys and a versatile, roster-bolstering guy in Winslow.

Let’s see where this new iteration of the team goes, because on paper, things already appear to be trending in the right direction.

Why Washington shouldn’t make the trade

In this scenario, Memphis is only offering two, likely middling, draft picks. If the Wizards are serious about moving off of Beal, then they probably are looking for something more in the range of the Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook swap of last summer. In that transaction, the Thunder received back four first round draft picks and CP3 for sending off Westbrook to the Rockets.

In a deal like that, Washington could still receive back an All-Star level player who might mesh better with Wall. In addition to staying relevant from a talent standpoint, the Wizards would have the draft capital to build for the future as well.

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