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Only a few days after it was reported the Washington Wizards would work with Bradley Beal on finding a trade, the team found one. Washington is sending Beal to the Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and still-to-be-reported collection of second-round picks and pick swaps.

Let’s break down the first major move of the 2023 NBA offseason!

(NOTE: This article will be updated if the deal expands into a three-team trade sending Chris Paul to a team other than Washington.)

The Mechanics

From a salary cap, trade rules and salary-matching perspective, this is a fascinating trade. This trade is presumably being made as a part of the 2022-23 league year, which means the salaries used on both sides are more complex than your standard deal.

On one side, the Wizards are trading one of the largest salaries in the NBA in Bradley Beal’s $43,279,250 contract for the 2022-23 season. On the Suns side, Landry Shamet’s $9,250,000 deal is also a simple one.

It’s Chris Paul, and the nature of his partially guaranteed contract for 2023-24 season, where things get complicated. Because Paul’s deal is only partially guaranteed, he counts at different amounts as outgoing and incoming salary in a trade.

On the Wizards side as incoming money, Paul counts at his 2022-23 salary of $28.4 million, because we’re still in that league year. On the Suns side, Phoenix needs to bump his guarantee amount for next season to make this trade legal. At the current $15.8 million, the Suns would have been about $12 million shy of matching salary for Beal. Because of that, Paul’s guarantee will be bumped to just over $25 million. That will allow for the outgoing salary-matching to be enough to bring in Beal.

For Beal, he has a 15% trade bonus in his contract that no longer applies. Because that bonus would take him over his max salary, it will be automatically waived. On the flip side, Beal’s no-trade clause (the only negotiated NTC in the NBA), will carry over to the Suns and remain intact.

As for the draft picks, the Suns have all of their own second-round selections from 2023 (it’s pick #52) through 2028 (they owe 2029 to the Oklahoma City Thunder). Phoenix can also offer Washington the ability to swap first-round picks in 2024 and 2026. The Suns can’t trade a first-round pick, as they owe their 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 picks to the Brooklyn Nets from the Kevin Durant trade. The Stepien Rule prohibits teams from trading away future first-round picks in consecutive drafts, blocking Phoenix from adding anything beyond pick swaps into this deal.

The Suns

If we focus simply on the basketball factors, the Suns did quite well in this trade. Bradley Beal is very, very good. He’s one of the best scorers in the NBA. He’s also a better playmaker than he generally gets credit for. There isn’t a team in the NBA that can match the scoring/shooting trio of Beal alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

The fit isn’t perfect. All three players are score-first guys who can also pass. It’s going to take a little while to iron that out. What helps is Durant has played with other good scorers and shooters for his entire career. Booker has played with Durant some, but also alongside a ball dominant point guard in Chris Paul. They both know how to work off-ball, as does Beal, who spent his formative NBA years playing alongside John Wall in Washington, and also with Russell Westbrook for a season.

All three of Durant, Booker and Beal can shoot, which also helps. In other recent “Big 3” groupings, there has historically been one player who isn’t much of a threat without the ball. That won’t be a problem with this trio.

Assuming everything gets ironed out on the court, where things go could go sideways on the Suns is with depth, injuries and the cap sheet. And all three are tangled together like a Gordian knot. But there’s no case of swordsmanship to solve this problem.

Barring further adjustments to this deal, Phoenix only has five players under contract. Durant, Booker and Beal are joined by Deandre Ayton and Cameron Payne as signed for next season. And that quintet combines to make $169.4 million. That’s a scant $10.1 million below the projected Super Tax of $179.5 million, with 10 roster spots to fill.

That means that Phoenix is going to be closer to the actual Sun than they are to the Super Tax line when all is said and done.

Even if the Suns break up Ayton’s $32.5 million deal into two or three contracts and players, they’ll still likely take back as much money as they send out, if not more. And they’ll need to sign at least nine players if they don’t trade Ayton in a 1-for-3 kind of deal.

Because they won’t have the Taxpayer MLE, by virtue of being over the Super Tax, and they don’t have a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Phoenix will be limited to re-signing their own players and adding new players on minimum deals.

In effect, this is the first “new team” test of the new CBA and it’s going to play out live in front of us.

Because of their limited ability to bring in outside help, it could make it more likely that Phoenix will re-sign their own free agents like Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale, who they have Early Bird rights for. That allows the Suns to give each of them a potentially bigger-than-expected bump in pay. As long as James Jones doesn’t go too far in raises for those three, he could turn them into valuable pieces of salary-matching for future trades down the line.

Phoenix has full Bird rights on pending restricted Darius Bazley, and he could also see a contract that comes in a bit richer than it was thought. Again, the idea would be to push the boundaries of what keeps Bazley a tradable asset in such a re-signing.

The Suns other free agents are all coming off minimum deals, but guys like Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, T.J. Warren and Terrence Ross can all still play. All could be candidates to return for the minimum. The same is true of Ishmail Wainright, who Phoenix has a team option for.

As for outside help, barring an Ayton trade, it’s going to come in the form of veteran minimum deals. But with plenty of rotation spots available and a chance to contend for a title, the Suns should be able to pick off a few value signings to fill out their bench. This will likely happen after the first wave or two of free agency passes, all the cap space is gone and teams are left with parts of Mid-Level and Room Exceptions to offer. At that point, a veteran minimum deal from a contender in Phoenix looks pretty good.

And that depth is going to be needed, because none of Durant, Booker or Beal has a sterling track record when it comes to health. All are a good bet to miss a decent chunk of time. Without quality backups, injuries could be this team’s ultimate Achilles heel.

Long-term, the Suns have a lot of money locked in. As a matter of fact, it’s nearly ¾ of a billion dollars (billion with a B) in guaranteed money on the Phoenix cap sheet through 2027-28. The Suns will owe Deandre Ayton, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant over $723 million combined.

That’s a staggering figure. Yes, the cap is going up, but the Suns will be dealing with the Super Tax for at least the next three to four seasons.

Bradley Beal is a better player than Chris Paul, even factoring in injury history. The fit is a little weird, but the Suns should be able to make it work. And they better, given the roster restrictions and cash commitment they’ve put on themselves for the next few years.

The Wizards

Washington’s part in all of this is far less complex than Phoenix’s is. The Wizards essentially salary-dumped Bradley Beal less than a year after handing him a five-year, $251 million dollar contract.

Chris Paul is still a good player, but he’s never going to suit up for Washington. He’ll either be traded in an expanded version of this deal, or traded in a separate deal, or waived. Landry Shamet is a fine role player, but who knows if he’ll ever play any sort of meaningful role for the Wizards? He could be flipped in a trade too.

The draft picks are nothing to write home about. Swaps only matter if you think you’ll be a better team in the years you hold the swaps. Maybe that happens here, maybe it doesn’t. It’s a good way off. Second-rounder picks have more value in this new Super Tax world, but only if you’re a super expensive team.

And there’s the key.

The Wizards are no longer going to be super expensive. At least not for a while.

Washington’s new front office, led by Michael Winger and Will Dawkins, was very open that they were given permission by team governor Ted Leonsis to rebuild, if they thought that was the best way forward. After years and years of being content to play for the middle, the Wizards are finally rebuilding.

The most long-term money that Washington has committed moving forward belongs to Daniel Gafford, who is owed just over $40 million through 2025-26. That’s relative peanuts for a starting-level center.

Kyle Kuzma is going to opt out for next season, and he’s probably leaving town, given where the Wizards are heading. Kristaps Porzingis may opt in for $36 million, as there are reports he may want that money now and to take his chances in free agency next summer. Even if Washington can’t find a deal for Porzingis, and they should be able to without much worry (Porzingis played at an All-Star level last year and stayed healthy), his deal will come off the books next season.

If they play their cards right, Washington can hit the summer of 2024 with somewhere between $26 and $40 million in committed salary on their books. That would leave the Wizards able to create between $75 and $90 million in potential cap space.

Talk about increased flexibility.

Now, cap space often turns into nothing more than broken dreams. But to even have the ability to have those cap space induced dreams is a win for the Wizards.

Every four to eight years we get told that our nation’s capital is ushering in a fresh start. For the past decade-plus, that’s never included the team that plays in Washington D.C. It’s always been same old, same old. We finally got that fresh start. And it’s going to be exciting to see what that fresh start brings for the Washington Wizards.