Will Russell Westbrook trade impact Bradley Beal’s future and Celtics pursuit of All-Star guard?


All eyes across the NBA are now on Bradley Beal amid a new return that his co-star in Washington wants a new home.

Shams Charania of the Athletic was the first to report on Thursday that the Lakers are close to acquiring Russell Westbrook in exchange for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the No. 22 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The Wizards are in the midst of a critical offseason after letting go of head coach Scott Brooks. Westbrook was close to Brooks and likely did not see a future towards contending in Washington, which led to him pushing for a new destination according to multiple reports.

Westbrook’s expected departure adds a new intriguing element to the potential trade availability of All-Star Bradley Beal this summer.

Beal still has two years remaining on his contract with Washington but he could opt out as soon as the summer of 2022 since his final year is a player option. Beal wasn’t interested in addressing his future in Washington yet after another sub .500 season at the end of last season.

“I haven’t even ... we’re not gonna think about that, or even talk about it, right now,” Beal said back in June about his commitment to Washington. “I haven’t thought about none of that, as of yet.”

“Ultimately, I’m in control,” Beal later added. “I think that’s my biggest thing. People are going to report whatever they want, but I know where my mind is and I know if it’s not coming from the horse’s mouth, then it’s going to be rumors. I expect them. S---, they’re starting now.

“So it doesn’t change anything. I guess it’s going to increase a lot more this year with me going into the last year of my deal, but for me, I’m just relaxing, resting my body and we’ll evaluate all that when summer comes.”

Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report reported over the weekend that the Celtics were one of four teams that Beal would welcome a trade to with the Heat, 76ers and Warriors also being on the shooting guard’s radar if he decides to ask out of Washington.

Wizards general manager Tommy Shephard told reporters on Wednesday that Beal had not made a trade request yet amid reports he was considering asking for a deal around the 2021 NBA Draft. However, moving on from Westbrook now could be a sign for the Wizards that they are preparing for Beal to ask his way out.

It’s important to note that the Wizards are getting back a number of proven veterans in a potential Westbrook deal so Washington could try to make a case to Beal that they can retool around him and try to compete in the Eastern Conference next season. Whether or not Beal can be sold on that for the long-term is a fair question but it might be the path Washington’s brass is willing to bet on for the present.

For now, the Celtics don’t have a ton to offer Washington without including Jaylen Brown in the deal as we covered earlier this week at MassLive. However, Beal not getting dealt this week could be considered good news as well for Boston’s eventual pursuit. The number of realistic suitors for the All-Star will likely diminish after draft night once teams start using their own picks, particularly Golden State who has two lottery selections on Thursday.

The Wizards aren’t acquiring enough talent in the potential Westbrook deal to likely secure a long-term commitment from Beal right away so it’s possible he could push his way out during the season if he’s not ready to do this summer.

For that reason, look for the Celtics to maintain maximum flexibility with their payroll during this offseason to keep their Beal possibilities alive if he stays put this week in Washington. Keeping the option open for a max free agent slot in 2022 should be in play if Beal elects to hit the open market next offseason and play things out this year in Washington with a new supporting cast. Additionally, Boston maintaining future draft assets will be critical if Beal elects to ask out at some point during the upcoming season and signals Boston is one of the few teams he’s willing to re-sign with since the Celtics would need to offer all that and more in a potential midseason trade offer to have a chance at a deal.

The Celtics aren’t going to be able to outbid many teams for Beal without including Brown in the deal but they could benefit from a Beal power play down the road. Time will tell whether he pursues that path if Westbrook departs.