Unlike the so-called “glamour market” teams like the Lakers, Warriors and Heat, the Wizards have not been considered a destination for NBA superstars.
The stars in D.C. have been players they drafted, such as John Wall and Bradley Beal, who just re-signed on a five-year, $251 million max contract. However, the team hopes Beal’s contract will help get them to the point where high-profile stars want to put on a Wizards uniform.
“It’s such a great day for the Washington Wizards franchise and what an unbelievable opportunity as we go forward showing the NBA, that this is a destination,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said Friday. “We have an opportunity to show the NBA what happens, the commitment that we’ll make to our players and to their careers. You talk about one of the most coveted free agents in the market re-signing with the Washington Wizards, committing to what he believes he can win here. And we believe we can win here.”
It’d be an understatement to say the Wizards are committed to Beal. Not only is he set to make $251 million over the next five years, but he has a reported no-trade clause, a 15% trade kicker if he’s ever dealt and a $57.1 million player option in the final year of the contract.
Beal could have tested the market as an unrestricted free agent and signed up to a four-year deal worth around $180 million elsewhere. He could have asked for a trade at any point over the last three years as we’ve seen several superstars do in the past. Beal stuck it out, improved his game every season, became a major presence in his community, and now he has one of the best contracts an NBA player could possibly acquire.
“If you can show the industry and show the world that you can draft, develop and keep great players, that’s how you start to make your way into becoming a destination,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said. “We think now with the team that we’ve put in place that Tommy has been building, we will have a very, very good team and will continue to be able to improve the team because players around the league will see that we reward and we are loyal to the people that helped to get us here.”
With all the benefits that come with being a destination franchise, a large payroll and/or luxury tax payments are usually involved as well. The Warriors, who just won a championship with a roster full of homegrown stars, had a $176 million payroll and are expected to pay a $170 million luxury tax penalty from the 2021-22 campaign.
When asked about the financial challenges of building a championship roster, Leonsis explained how Sheppard has been encouraged to do what’s necessary to win.
“We’re a free agent away. We will always be looking at how we can improve the team and Tommy [Sheppard] has been given the green light. I’ve said no to nothing. I want to win.“
The first step to attracting more talent, however, is winning with what you have. After missing the playoffs in 2022, the Wizards will lean on Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma to make more noise in the Eastern Conference next season.