Could Bradley Beal still be on the table for the Sixers, and what even are their assets?

Bradley Beal
LOS, CA – DECEMBER 01: Washington Wizards Guard Bradley Beal (3) argues with a call during a NBA game between the Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Clippers on December 1, 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

As rumors continue to surround James Harden’s free agency decision, could the Sixers pivot and turn their attention to Bradley Beal?

Once again, it has been an offseason of change for the Philadelphia 76ers — the team’s most consistent trait. The Sixers have dismissed their head coach, Doc Rivers, and replaced him with former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. In addition, several other coaching changes have occupied the team’s offseason news, but the primary story hanging over the Sixers continues to be whether they will retain star James Harden or look to replace him.

While Nurse has sung the praises of Harden, both in his initial press conference and Monday with Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective, there remains a possibility that Harden has played his last game for the Sixers. Should that be the case, the organization must pivot to another path forward toward their journey of an NBA championship. This brings us to some recent comments connecting Philadelphia to a multi-time All-Star.

On Sunday, June 12, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons speculated on the potential availability of Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal. During a segment on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons and Ryen Russillo engaged in a mock draft of players they expect to be traded by the start of next season. To open the discussion, Simmons not only mentioned Beal as a prime candidate but said his “odds on favorite is Philadelphia, and I don’t even think it’s close.”

Simmons continued to mention the connection between Bradley Beal and Sixers’ star Joel Embiid and the later campaigning for Beal before the acquisition of James Harden. As far as the hypothetical concept of Philadelphia showing interest in Beal, the logic was sound, but it’s rarely ever so simple.

This begs a few questions all under the umbrella of whether or not a Bradley Beal deal could still be on the table for Philadelphia: What factors into a Bradley Beal deal? What could the Sixers offer for Beal? And what are the potential paths to making a Beal deal a reality?

What factors into a Bradley Beal deal?

Bradley Beal
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) smiles while walking down court with James Harden (1) during the second half of Game 5 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

There’s quite a bit that factors into a Bradley Beal trade from both the Wizards’ and the Sixers’ respective sides. For Washington, it has become clear that the perennial push for the play-in is coming to an end if it hasn’t already. Despite recent comments to the contrary by Washington’s new president, Michael Winger, executives around the league believe that the Wizards are close to rebuilding within the next two seasons.

It’s not hard to imagine why. With crucial free-agent decisions this offseason regarding Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porziņģis, the Wizards find themselves in the precarious position of committing big-time money to ensure a mediocre future. While the team surely would not prefer to lose these players for no return, it may prove to be a wise move in the long run. As far as how this relates to Bradley Beal, though he is not a free agent, his presence prohibits the team from firmly tanking.

Washington could certainly take their time in searching for a trade partner, but if Beal is ready to go and has Philadelphia as a destination, deciding to begin their rebuild ahead of schedule is likely not out of the question.

Working in the Sixers’ favor would be all of the undesirable qualities that come with Bradley Beal. While he’s still an All-Star caliber player, Beal has missed roughly 33% of his potential games over the previous four seasons. As many have reminded Sixers fans over the years, “availability is the best ability.” Many teams will certainly be well aware of Beal’s injury history when discussing a potential deal, including the Sixers, a team whose hopes and dreams already hinge on a player who’s yet to reach the 70-game marker in his career.

Additionally, factors that work in Philadelphia’s favor include the $208 million Beal is owed over the remaining four years of his contract. That may not sound particularly enticing to the Sixers or their fans, but that contract is one of the reasons why the Wizards are looking to move him at all.

Finally, as Simmons pointed out, Bradley Beal holds a no-trade clause, meaning that he can veto, or rather requires that Beal approve, any trade that he would be involved in. This gives him an immense amount of power as he can effectively dictate his next destination or remain in Washington. Compound that with the history of two-way love between him and Joel Embiid, and it’s not hard to reason that he may push for a trade to Philadelphia; how he gets, there remains a difficult question.

What could the Sixers offer for Beal?

Bradley Beal
Philadelphia 76ers’ Daryl Morey listens to a question during a news conference at the NBA basketball team’s training facility, Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The primary difficulty Philadelphia faces is their lack of draft capital. To quickly recap, the Sixers can offer trade swaps in 2024 and 2026, along with a first-rounder two years after their first-rounder debt to Brooklyn is satisfied. The pick owed to Brooklyn is tentatively scheduled for 2027 but is, in reality, a top 8 protected pick which will be conveyed at the earliest two years after the Sixers’ first-round debt to the Oklahoma City Thunder is satisfied. Philadelphia also owns second-round picks in 2024 (via NYK), 2027, 2028, and two in 2029; their own and one via the Portland Trail Blazers.

Aside from draft compensation, the players who could potentially provide value on the trade market include frequent mock trade flyer Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton, and Jaden Springer, who remains the same age or younger than over 33% of the projected first-round prospects this season. Noticeably absent is Tyrese Maxey for reasons that will be explained shortly. It may not seem like much to offer, but considering the difficult position the Wizards find themselves in, there are a few potential paths to a deal.

Three potential paths to acquiring Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal
Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) drives against Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Many have suggested the inclusion of Tyrese Maxey in a deal for Bradley Beal. For a variety of reasons, the Sixers should be more than hesitant. Not only are the age and cost factors heavily in Maxey’s favor, but Beal is also not a marketable upgrade to the point that a deal would make sense for the Sixers. This leaves three potential paths the Sixers could effectively go down, as Simmons suggests, both under the assumption that James Harden leaves Philadelphia.

Down the first, the Sixers could negotiate a sign-and-trade with Harden’s new team, presumptively Houston, incentivizing the Rockets by attaching draft compensation, in this case, a 2029 second-round selection, in exchange for a trade exception that could then be used to acquire Beal in addition to more draft compensation.

The complication with this path is that in order for it to be viable, the Rockets would have to sign James Harden to a deal worth at least $46.6 million in 2023, the same number Beal is owed come the first day of July as a sign-and-trade is only possible the first official day of free agency, July 6. The other issue at hand stems from the Sixers’ lack of draft assets, but that follows any and all scenarios in this exercise.

The second path the Sixers could travel down is by far the most difficult. Almost a 1b to the first path’s 1a; if the Sixers find a way to work out a sign-and-trade with Harden’s prospective new team, potentially Houston or Phoenix, based on the rumor mill, then there is the potential to involve the Wizards and include Beal. This is no small challenge as sign-and-trades are rare in large part to their complex nature.

One could spend hours theorizing mock trades and potential players who could be involved — and likely we will at some point — by either creating the trade exception in the same deal as the original path or by involving the likes of Chris Paul or another Sun on the trade block, there is technically a path to acquiring Beal, though it will by no means be easy.

The third and final path is also the most realistic of the three. Philadelphia could feasibly offer Tobias Harris — who could again be flipped by the deadline — plus assets for Bradley Beal. Simmons referred to the assets in question as “draft assets,” but Philadelphia would likely have to include one or more players in addition to Harris and the draft capital.

Jaden Springer would likely be one candidate, as his age (20) fits the Wizards rebuilding timeline. De’Anthony Melton is an additional name that Washington could conceivably have interest in with the hopes of flipping him ahead of the trade deadline for further draft compensation, though it is hard to envision Philadelphia parting with the defensive guard, particularly in this deal.

If the Sixers are forced to trade both Springer and Melton, they would find themselves hurting for backup and general defensive guard play. Tyrese Maxey and Bradley Beal do not exactly instill one with much faith despite Nick Nurse’s potential impact. That’s where it’s up to Daryl Morey to find the diamonds in the rough that can round out the roster. In this case, Delon Wright is a potential candidate.