Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal has been linked with the Los Angeles Lakers since the day LeBron James signed. Those rumours are gaining momentum, however, with Washington in a salary cap mess because of John Wall’s contract and the Lakers desperate to add star talent alongside James.
With Kevin Durant, Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving and several other big names available, the Lakers cannot afford to miss out again with the balance of NBA power set to shift. Trading for Beal – or Anthony Davis – is a way to insure against a disappointing free agency.
Of all that group, there’s an argument that Beal is the best fit alongside LeBron.
A knockdown three-point shooter, very good defender and capable of handling the ball, Beal is an ideal complementary piece alongside an ageing, though still dominant, James. When Wall was absent this season, Beal’s assist numbers leapt, playing as the centre of the offence and bringing others into the game.
The Lakers have been keen to give LeBron time off the ball and having a secondary star like Beal makes that a lot easier.
Beal wasn’t at his best from deep in 2018/19, but he’s a career 38.4% perimeter shooter, an area that the Lakers ranked 29th in the league in last season. Improving their team three-point percentage from the ugly 33.3% last season is crucial for the Lakers this summer – Beal would be a significant step in the right direction.
It seems obvious, but let’s say it anyway: Beal alone would not be a successful summer for the Lakers.
For Rob Pelinka to have constructed a title challenger, they need to add two major pieces, ideally at least one through free agency. Beal, along with a free agent like Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving, would give the Lakers a ‘big three’ capable of going all the way.
Whether it’s one of, or a pair of, Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma along with the fourth pick for Beal, the Lakers should jump at the chance. Pelinka and Jeanie Buss may want to wait for the Davis sweepstakes to play out first, but Beal is a legitimate star, who was perhaps overlooked for All-NBA this season because of how awful the Wizards were.
The Lakers like Ball. He’s a good fit next to LeBron too, happy off the ball and could be on All-Defense teams one day. If he can be the centrepiece of a trade to add one of the league’s best guards, though, it shouldn’t be a question.
This trade saga is going to run for a while longer. Washington will get plenty of offers, but the Lakers are still in a very strong position to make a deal, and acquiring Beal along with one of the several All-Star free agents could make them title favourites.