Once Bradley Bell finally decided to explore greener pastures outside of the Washington Wizards uniform, it didn’t take long for the deal to be finalized. Shams Charania reports that the Wizards are trading Bale to the Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul and Landry Shamet, “a handful of second-round picks” and multiple first-round swaps.
We’ve wondered the past few days if the Miami Heat will finally be the team to pounce on the Beal acquisition or if Deandre Ayton will be the key player returning in a three-time All-Star deal. But it turns out that the Wizards and their new front office are happy to get ceiling relief and questionable capital return. Let’s break out the red ink and throw some scores on this trade:
Phoenix acquires Bradley Bell
Wherever Kevin Durant goes, the tag team superstar will follow. We just have to see if the super team can hold its own and make a deep run towards the championship. We saw a couple of titles come his way when he joined the mighty Golden State Warriors in 2016. We didn’t see the same success when KD joined Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets and eventually saw the team trade for James Harden. Soon it collapsed. Durant found himself in the Suns at the trade deadline earlier this year, and his combination, Devin Booker and Chris Paul, only resulted in a second-round exit.
Adding Beal to the mix in exchange for having two guards who don’t want the franchise anymore seems like a good trade-off on the surface. Bell is one of the most talented scorers in the NBA. He’s also an underrated playmaker to others, averaging 5.5 assists per game over the last five seasons. In two of those seasons, he averaged 6.1 and 6.6 assists per game. He had an assist rate of 25.9 percent and a turnover rate of 11.6 percent over those five seasons. To put that into perspective, another playmaker, fellow freshman Booker, has an assist rate of 26.9 percent and a turnover rate of 12.6 over the same five-year period.
Bell and Booker can co-exist in the same backcourt, and Booker will likely take on the lead keeper role most of the time, as they are both exceptional scorers and willing playmakers to take care of the ball. As we saw in the little time Durant and Booker spent on the court together, offense was getting through them pretty much anyway. They didn’t need a more traditional goalkeeper to get the ball on the ground and attack into position. Bale will fit into this dynamic well, and as with any big three player, you’d expect at least one of these players to be on the field at all times.
That will be the challenge for new coach Frank Vogel: figuring out the right spin and teaming up the players to distribute the minutes throughout the course of the match. Fortunately for Phoenix, he and his coaching staff have a full summer camp and training to do just that.
That’s not all broth for the sun, though. This trio would be very expensive making it difficult to add important players. Starting in 2024-25, Durant, Beal, and Booker will each make over $50 million per season. The luxury tax for next season is expected to be around $162 million. It’ll probably be higher, but a punishing, ultra-luxury Tax Border II apron will be in the $180 million to $190 million range down the road. Maybe a little higher depending on how much the max digits jump.
Phoenix is already in the projected luxury tax figure for 2023-24 with only Beal, Booker, Durant and Ayton contracts.
The Suns simply wouldn’t have the flexibility to add many players beyond the veteran minimums. This makes this summer very imperative to add discount role players. It’s safe to wonder if Ayton could be moved in exchange for spreading that $30 million-plus per season over the next three seasons across as many players if they can get two or three players back in return. Then maybe the Suns just hope guys like Jock Landale and Bismack Biyombo can control the quarterback enough.
Most of Phoenix’s valuable picks already went to Brooklyn in the Durant trade. It’s not often a dad gets a gift for his son on Father’s Day, but Bell’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, apparently did for Josh Bartelstein, CEO of The Suns.
There are a lot of complexities in filling out the roster to set up this salary, but the Suns haven’t given up much to test the waters.
Washington acquires Chris Paul, Landry Shamet, and several second-round picks and first-round pick swaps
The deal hasn’t been finalized and called into the league office just yet, so perhaps a way could open up to redirect Paul to a third team for a chance to join a rival and give the Wizards some better compensation in this deal. But for now, Washington’s new CEO, Michael Winger, has taken a bold first step in remaking this Wizards team.
The organization wasn’t very successful in Bill’s era, and he decided to clear the books and take some scraps of capital in exchange for All-NBA and All-Star talent. I have no problem determining that Bill is not your franchisee. There hasn’t been a massive level of success in trying to put a team around him yet.
But they earn the right to waive Paul (not fully guaranteed if waived by June 28), Chamett (not guaranteed after the 2023-24 season), regardless of their “handful” of second-round picks and future trades. This is the Suns project selection mode:
- 2023: First round due to Brooklyn, second round possession (52)
- 2024: Own first-round (cannot be traded, may be interchanged) and second-round picks
- 2025: First-round picks for Brooklyn, a second-round franchise
- 2026: Own first-round (cannot be traded, may be interchanged) and second-round picks
- 2027: First round due for Brooklyn, a second round franchise
- 2028: We choose to swap with Brooklyn, second round selection
- 2029: First round owed to Brooklyn, second round owed to OKC
- 2030: Own the first round (cannot be traded, can be interchanged) and the second round picks
Perhaps Washington will start getting selective swaps in 2024, but that’s probably not a good starting point if we think the Suns will be good for at least a few years. Ideally for Washington, the Wizards get pick trade-offs down the road when they hope to take advantage of a Suns team that may have collapsed, disintegrated, or just had some bad luck. Maybe that starts in 2026 and they take over in 2023. All the picks owed in this deal from Phoenix are her own because the Suns don’t own any of the other teams.
That doesn’t sound like an enticing deal for such an amazing talent, regardless of the team’s lack of success in the past. Perhaps Wenger is just scanning books. Kristaps Porzenis and Kyle Kuzma are expected to give up their player options and become free agents with no strings attached. Under the previous front office, the Wizards were expected to be competitive in retaining these players. Maybe Winger has changed that mindset and we can see them walking away or going through sign-ups and deals.
Either way, draft picks and second-round draft picks don’t sound like an exciting deal, but at least the Wizards are moving on and starting to rebuild. We’ll have to see what the next step of the plan is for the foundation.
(Photo by Bradley Bell and Chris Paul: Jeff Burke/USA Today)
“Introvert. Subtly charming web geek. Lifelong entrepreneur. Amateur social media expert. Coffee trailblazer.”