A recent interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller saw Beal have a revealing quote.
When asked about the Wizards potentially being a play-in tournament team, Beal had this to say.
“…I feel like that’s a step back in a lot of ways and we’re trying to proceed forward that’s kind of either staying the same as last year or not making any progress at all. And so, that plays a factor into it.”
Other league sources confirm that Beal is conflicted over his future in Washington.
He has not and reportedly will not ask for a trade this season from the team that drafted him third overall in 2012.
But it would appear Beal’s confidence in being able to win in Washington is waning.
After a scorching hot start to the season that saw the Wizards go 10-4, they have come back to Earth.
Washington currently sits in the 11th spot at 24-27 – outside of even the play-in tournament.
There are no reports that say Washington is considering trading Beal this season.
But if their stance changes between now and February 10th, here are three teams that must target the star shooting guard.
3. Atlanta Hawks
First up, we have the Atlanta Hawks.
Saying they “must” target Beal may be a bit dramatic this year.
Instead, they are included more so for their future.
The Hawks are playing well below expectations this year.
They are 24-26 on the year and sit at 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Not the encore they were hoping for after their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Atlanta already has one star guard in Trae Young who provides plenty of offensive firepower.
Been a problem 🥶
📊 43 PTS | 16/25 FG | 6/11 3PM pic.twitter.com/j9Qgy0De3d
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) February 4, 2022
The Hawks score the eighth-most points per game and have the second-best offensive rating.
But they need to consolidate for cap purposes.
Cam Reddish was already traded to avoid fronting the bill for his next extension.
All of whom are good players but none (besides Young) are on the same level as Beal.
Acquiring Beal now for a package of young players and picks would give Atlanta his bird rights.
That would allow them to extend Beal an offer greater than what he would receive from any other team on the open market.
While Beal could sign a four-year deal worth $180 million with any team, he could sign a five-year, $241 million deal with the Hawks.
Young and Beal would form arguably the best backcourt in the league for the next five years.
Atlanta would have an explosive offense and plenty of time to figure out the defensive issue.
Beal may not fix all of Atlanta’s problems this year, but he would set them up nicely for the future.
2. New York Knicks
Next on the list is the New York Knicks, another team falling short of 2022 expectations.
A fourth-place finish and home playoff series last year had “The Big Apple” buzzing this season.
A team that struggled to score the ball last season finally had some offensive firepower outside of Randle and Barrett.
The offensive firepower has yet to show up.
New York is 24-28, 12th in the Eastern Conference, with the 27th ranked offense.
Randle’s numbers are down across the board and Barrett is far less efficient.
Kemba also has not rediscovered the scoring touch that made him an All-Star in Charlotte.
The New York Knicks are open to trading Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier and Alec Burks, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 28, 2022
Who better to inject some offensive juice than Beal?
Even during a “down year”, Beal is averaging 23.2 points per game on 45% shooting.
His three-point percentage is at a career-worst 30%, but that should come back up eventually as he is a 37% career shooter from beyond the arc.
Beal is more than just a scorer, however.
His 6.6 assists per game this year are a career-high.
Slotting him next to Randle in New York would relieve some of the burden placed on Randle’s shoulders.
Playing next to an All-Star teammate should help both players better their shooting efficiency numbers.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Lastly, we have the team involved in Beal trades since last season, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philadelphia is the one team on this list that is outperforming expectations.
With starting point guard Ben Simmons yet to suit up for a single game, Philly sits at 31-20 – third in the Eastern Conference.
They have been powered by the MVP-caliber play of big-man Joel Embiid.
29.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game for the seven-footer.
The Sixers are 27-12 when he plays but 4-8 when he sits – a clear sign he needs help.
The same goes for Tobias Harris.
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) February 3, 2022
Beal would give Embiid a superstar teammate whose skill set meshes well with the center.
Beal’s shooting and improved lead-guard abilities would form a fearsome two-man game.
Focus on Beal off an Embiid screen, and Embiid has a free roll to the basket.
Prevent the Embiid roll, and Beal gets an open jumper from three.
Embiid’s gravity should help Beal better his efficiency with defenses not exclusively keying in on the shooting guard.
The same can be said for Embiid (although his efficiency is already high).
With reports surfacing Philly will not include an “additional piece” in a trade for Beal, it remains to be seen if a Simmons-only package would be enough to get the deal done.
If the two sides come to an agreement, a Beal-Embiid pairing would scare any team in the NBA.