Brooklynsbeal, as they say on Twitter, is upon us.
According to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News, the Nets have internally discussed avenues to acquire Bradley Beal. Bondy did not mention, in his article, what a trade may look like, whether Washington would partake, or whether Beal wants to be a Net. For now, these are questions, and obstacles to a deal.
But for now, I will say this: if the Nets can get Beal this off-season, and if Beal wants to accept a third banana role, then they should get him.
A starting and finishing five built around KD, Irving, and Beal, would be devastating. With Kyrie and Beal’s ability to get downhill and create creases in defenses, and shoot the three, defenses would not have a place to hide bad defenders. Picture a lineup built around those three, Joe Harris, and DeAndre Jordan. What does a defender do when Kyrie, Beal, or Durant gets by his defender? Cheat off Jordan in the dunker spot? Cheat off Harris at the arc? Cheat off one of the other two stars? Any of those recipes spell death for opposing defenses.
Furthermore offensively, it is not as though the ball would stick. All three have thrived playing off the ball next to other mouths whom need feeding. Beal, unlike say, Oladipo, thrived next to John Wall for years. Kyrie thrived next to LeBron. Durant stepped into a ready made offensive system flush with others scorers and there was no adjustment period to learn how to play with him. Thinks clicked immediately, because Durant is a willing passer who does not need to dominate the ball to be effective. All three are willing passers, and fantastic perimeter shooters who excel off the ball.
The fit defensively is admittedly clunkier, but the team should survive. Durant was a legitimately great defender in Golden State. Kyrie can get lazy defensively, but when locked in in huge playoff games, he has defended well. Beal is not a good defender but was a part of multiple average defenses in Washington, and the 2015 Wizards ranked sixth in defense. He will not render the Nets ineffectual on that end. Place tough minded role players around them and a good coach can cobble a decent defense together.
Decent may be all they need. Remember, defense was the same knock on LeBron’s Cavs early in his second Cleveland stint.
I have read the various concerns about getting Beal (Twitter was the place to be today!). Fit, price, and the post KD Kyrie window. Let’s address them.
The fit concerns are understood. When you think about what KD and Kyrie provide, it makes sense to surround them with hard nosed role players who will shoot the three and defend, who will be ok without a ton of shots. Beal does not fit the mold.
And if Beal were Oladipo – a player we have never seen thrive as a second or third option – I would agree. However, we know Beal can thrive next to a ball dominant point guard like Kyrie – we saw it with John Wall. And at some level, a team’s talent level gets so high that, despite fit concerns, they figure it out and make it work. Talent trumps all.
Look at the 2010-2014 Heat. There were fit questions abound when they came together. How do LeBron and Wade share one ball? Who takes the last shot? How does LeBron or Wade play off ball, since neither is a perimeter shooter? However, they, and Bosh, WANTED it to work, and talent trumped fit.
Which brings me to my original point: the Nets should get Beal, IF he wants to be a third banana. If Beal does not want to be a third banana, then the Nets should stay away. This would not work if he does not accept his role. But if Beal wants to be part of something bigger than himself, then the Nets should make it happen.
This is why, before any deal, KD and Kyrie should talk to Beal. Is this what you want? You’re going to get maybe half the shots you get in Washington. On some nights you may only get 5-10 shots. Is this what you’re looking for and are you ready to make that kind of sacrifice?
If the answer is yes (but not otherwise), then let’s get it done. Elite big threes win championships.
There is also the question of price and the future. The Wizards would be dealing a top 15-20 player with two years left on his deal here. The Nets, lacking a blue chip asset (like a Jayson Tatum, or a Zion or Ja Morant) would have to go deep into their pool of assets. LeVert (approaching 26 and not a star or top 40 player), Dinwiddie (a decent starter and nothing more), Allen (a year from a payday), picks in the 20s, and Claxton (who was just drafted 31 and has had maybe three decently solid games as a pro) is not exactly a great pool of assets. The rest of the pieces on the roster are worth little in deals. The Wizards would definitely demand Dinwiddie and LeVert, and probably a combo of Allen or Claxton and 2-3 firsts.
That’s steep, I get it. But why are the Wizards dealing a star on a long term deal for less?
Here is the thing with trades though. Yes, depth is lost. But the Nets would presumably retain pieces in house. They likely still have Harris, one of Claxton or Allen, Jordan, and Temple after the deal. From there, they have the taxpayer midlevel and minimum exception slots in free agency, with a trio that free agents will be dying to play with. The Nets can use free agency, and any remaining 2020 draft picks, to mitigate the loss of depth (and can do so again in the 2021 summer).
As for the concerns of a post KD Kyrie window? Right now, the Nets should be all in on winning a title while they are here. Title windows are precious and even when you think they will last forever, they can close in the blink of an eye. So, you cannot hedge against your window to focus on the future. The 1990s Magic and 2010s Thunder were supposed to be the next NBA dynasties. The 2010s Bulls were supposed to challenge the Heat for East supremacy behind Derrick Rose every year. The Warriors went from “it’s not fair how great they are” to 15-50 in the blink of an eye. The burgeoning 2002 Kings were going to see the Lakers again before Chris Webber got hurt.
Sure, KD and Kyrie purportedly want to retire here. Well, LeBron wrote a love letter pledging to stay in Cleveland forever. PG told OKC he was there to stay. Kyrie for his part said he would resign in Boston. Stars change their minds constantly. The Nets have to operate as though KD and Kyrie will leave in 2022, and maximize their title shot through that date. The same goes for the Lakers Clippers and others with their stars.
Also, the issue is a red herring — there is no post KD Kyrie window because there is no player or asset that can be built around. Suppose KD and Kyrie walk in 2022. LeVert, who is not a star, will be 28. Dinwiddie, a decent starter, will be 29. Even if Allen grows as a rim protector, players of his ilk are not cornerstones. Claxton is fun, but if he really had massive potential to be an elite player, would he have fallen to 31 in the draft and barely played this year? The rest of the roster, in terms of the future cornerstone conversation, is not in the conversation, and the impending picks in the 20s and below cannot be counted on to acquire a blue chip, either.
Translation: if KD and Kyrie walk in 2022, the Nets will be doomed to a long rebuild, with no blue chip in house to build around, no matter what. If the future is bleak regardless, you may as well maximize the present.
Plus, if anything, Beal actually improves the Nets future. He gives them a blue chip to build around, or trade for a hefty sum of picks and kids, if KD and Kyrie defect.
This is a big impending offseason for the Nets. They have a real championship window here, and they have to seize it.
How can they do it? By getting Bradley Beal.