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Steph Curry Should Demand a Bradley Beal Trade

The Warriors can’t afford to wait on a rookie while their best player is in his prime. Golden State has the pieces to trade for the Wizards star and form an instant contender. Here are three ways it can get the deal done.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

A Bradley Beal trade seems inevitable at this point. Nothing has gone right this season for the Wizards, who have the worst winning percentage in the NBA even though Beal leads the league in scoring at 35.4 points per game. A split makes sense for both parties. Washington needs to start over and Beal needs a fresh start on a contender. But while the All-Star would be a great fit on just about any of them, few can assemble the all-in trade package of promising youngsters and future draft picks that has become the norm for superstar trades. One team that can—and the first the Wizards should call—is the Warriors.

Golden State checks two boxes for this kind of deal. It can form a Big Three with Beal, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green that would immediately contend for a title and give Washington a fair return. The trade would be built around two pieces as good as any the Wizards could get around the league: James Wiseman, the no. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, and a future first-round pick from the Timberwolves, who have the third-worst record in the NBA this season. That pick, which the Warriors received in the Andrew Wiggins trade, is top-three protected in 2021 and unprotected in 2022.

The points of contention would be how many other future first-rounders and pick swaps Golden State would have to include, and which salaries they would send to Washington to balance the deal. The only pick the Warriors can’t add is their 2021 first-rounder, which is already owed to the Thunder if it falls outside the top 20. The number of additional assets the Wizards could get would depend on what kind of deal they take. Here are three potential versions:

1. Kelly Oubre Jr. ($14.4 million)

Oubre and Wiseman for Beal would be the simplest trade for both teams. Oubre, who started his career in Washington, is in the last season of his contract and the Wizards could then walk away with no future financial obligations. Oubre has struggled mightily in Steve Kerr’s read-and-react motion offense, averaging 12.1 points and 1.3 assists per game on career-worst shooting percentages from the field (37.3) and 3-point range (23.3). Losing him would be a blow to their defense, though, and his poor shooting would be less of an issue next to Beal if the Warriors go with one of the other versions of this trade.

The biggest hurdle for Golden State would be financial. Even a franchise with seemingly unlimited pockets might struggle to pay the monstrous luxury tax bills that would come from having five players on max contracts for two seasons.

2. Andrew Wiggins ($29.5 million)

This deal would net Washington a haul of draft assets similar to what New Orleans and Oklahoma City recently received. Wiggins is playing the best basketball of his career in a more limited role in Golden State, averaging 17.8 points per game on 46.9 percent shooting. But he’s still the most expendable of their max contracts. The Wizards could demand a lot to take him off Golden State’s books since he has little value to a rebuilding team. It’s depressing to even think about what Wiggins and a past-his-prime Russell Westbrook would look like together, much less pay them $75.8 million combined in 2022 and $80.7 million in 2023. Washington would also need to send a few other salaries, like Ish Smith ($6 million) and Jerome Robinson ($3.7 million), to make the numbers work.

3. Klay Thompson ($35.4 million)

The most mind-bending scenario. It would be a huge gamble for the Wizards given that Thompson will have three seasons left on his max contract after missing the first two with a torn ACL and Achilles. But, if he does return to anywhere near full strength, they could flip him for additional assets down the road. Even a relatively limited version of Klay would fit anywhere.

It’s just hard to imagine the Warriors giving up on a franchise icon while he recovers from such a devastating injury. And it’s less fun to imagine what the Beal Warriors would look like without him.

The Wizards’ Side

Trading Beal for young players who need time to develop is Washington’s best option given the size of the massive rebuilding project ahead of them. How long would it take for a young All-Star like Ben Simmons to get frustrated and demand out? He makes no sense alongside Westbrook, and would struggle with the lack of shooters to play around him. There’s not much help in Washington for a player who wants to win now. It has little veteran talent, and its best prospects (Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, and Troy Brown Jr.) don’t work in complementary roles.

That would not be an issue for Wiseman, a raw 19-year-old center still learning the game. His potential is obvious. Few big men have his combination of size (7-foot and 240 pounds with a 7-foot-6 wingspan), athleticism, and skill. Wiseman would have room to experiment as a shooter, ball handler, and playmaker in Washington, and grow into a role as a defensive anchor.

Washington could turn Beal into a future Big Three of Wiseman and two lottery picks from a loaded 2021 draft class. Its own pick would have as good a chance as any to be in the top four, while Minnesota’s could wind up in the middle of the top 10. This is a great draft to have multiple bites at the apple.

Westbrook could even end up being an asset for a rebuilding team. He will always compete, demand accountability, and set a good example for his younger teammates off the court, no matter how much his team loses. Victor Oladipo has credited his one season with Westbrook in Oklahoma City for changing his career. And Westbrook will do all that without being good enough to actually impact their draft positioning. It’s the best of both worlds.

The Warriors’ Side

Wiseman, for all his potential, doesn’t really fit with Curry and Green. It took him less than a month to lose his spot in the starting lineup. Golden State’s two stars go from a net rating of minus-9.6 in 226 minutes with Wiseman to plus-25.9 in 140 minutes without him. There are issues on both sides of the ball. Neither Wiseman nor Green is a consistent 3-point shooter, and Kerr’s motion offense has to be simplified for the teenager to be effective. And like all young big men, he’s still learning how to play defense at the NBA level. That learning curve can take years.

Drafting Wiseman to match up with some of the bigger teams in the West was always a stretch. Anthony Davis is 27. Nikola Jokic is 25. It’s unfair to expect a 19-year-old to defend them in a playoff series. All he is at this age is a big body who will pick up fouls as part of a platoon. He won’t be as old as Davis and Jokic are now until Curry and Green are past their primes. The best chance for Wiseman to help them contend is as part of a trade package.

The same is true for the Wolves pick. The one prospect in this year’s draft who’s ready to contribute on a contender is Oklahoma State point forward Cade Cunningham, who will not slip outside of the top three. All the other prospects will need time, just like Wiseman. Why not turn the pick into a 27-year-old who can instantly put them back at the top of the league?

Beal can do the best Curry impression of any NBA star. He has the same ability to threaten the defense on and off the ball, pull up from anywhere on the court, finish at the rim, and set up his teammates. Two of those players would be impossible to stop. The gimmicky defenses that teams have been using against Curry this season would be over. It would be a new twist on the Splash Brothers, except Beal averages about twice as many assists as Thompson. He could create space for Curry and open shots for him off his drives.

A Big Four of Curry, Beal, Thompson, and Green next season would be even more fascinating. Golden State already showed they can make a similar lineup work with Durant instead of Beal. There’s no such thing as too much shooting, especially when those shooters can all move without the ball. The Warriors would be just as explosive as the Nets, but with less redundancy on offense and a former Defensive Player of the Year anchoring their back line. They would be the greatest show in the league and remain relevant for the rest of Steph’s prime, assuming Beal re-signs in 2022. That’s the kind of gamble elite teams have to make these days. Brooklyn mortgaged its future for James Harden, even though Harden could leave in free agency in two seasons.

Golden State has to live in the moment. Its top priority should be keeping Curry happy, and he can’t be happy to see his team planning for a future without him while his peers assemble superteams. He could eventually ask out if the Warriors don’t win at the rate that he’s used to. His team has the chips to create the NBA’s next powerhouse, and those chips will never be as valuable as they are right now. Beal isn’t on the market yet. But he will be soon. It’s time for Golden State to go all in.