76ers Rumors: Bradley Beal Joining James Harden and Joel Embiid is a Dangerous $123.2 Million Gamble

The Philadelphia 76ers have looked borderline unstoppable since pairing James Harden and Joel Embiid together. Now, imagine a universe where Bradley Beal is added to the mix.

Rumors are starting to fly around about Beal leaving the Washington Wizards this summer and teaming up with Harden and Embiid in Philly. If that happens, the 76ers would arguably possess the NBA’s most impressive superstar trio for years to come.

However, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have recently taught us, it’s awfully difficult to navigate through the season with three superstars and nothing else. While it’s a not a guarantee the Sixers will wind up in a similar position, they’d nevertheless be taking a major gamble.

Bradley Beal wants to join the 76ers, according to Andrew Bogut

Beal, 28, has spent all 10 of his NBA seasons with the Wizards. But if the high-scoring guard declines his $36.4 million player option for next season, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent who’s able to sign anywhere.

His next destination, according to former big man Andrew Bogut, could be the 76ers.

Bogut, who spent 14 years in the NBA, made some eyebrow-raising comments about Beal on his Rogue Bogues podcast. For what it’s worth, this comes days after Beal himself confirmed that he’s leaning toward staying in D.C.

“I’ve heard a pretty big rumor … from some people that are pretty close to the situation in the NBA: Big three to Philly. Brad Beal is trying to get to Philadelphia in the offseason to team up with Harden and Embiid.

Philly’s desperate, obviously, to try to get off [Tobias] Harris, anyway. They have been for a while. And I think they’re even more desperate now to free up that cap space somehow. It will most likely have to be a sign-and-trade with Philly. But don’t be surprised if a big three forms in Philly. That’s the word on the street.”

Andrew Bogut

Bogut has never played for the 76ers, nor does he have any relationship with Beal from his playing days. But his long career has undoubtedly helped him forge a few league-wide connections, providing a reason to take his report seriously.

Building around Beal, Harden, and Embiid is a major risk

As Bogut mentions, the most-likely solution for acquiring Beal is a sign-and-trade. And it would have to include Tobias Harris, who still has two years and $76.8 million left on his extension. But that’s not all.

Beal is eligible to sign a four-year max contract worth $182 million with a new team this summer. The first year would be $42.3 million, meaning Philly would have to add another piece alongside Harris. In all likelihood, Washington would demand Tyrese Maxey and/or Matisse Thybulle, who will make a combined $7 million in 2022-23.

So what happens if the 76ers trade Harris and the rising star Maxey for Beal? For one, it would make their thin depth even thinner. Philadelphia already traded Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, along with Ben Simmons, in last month’s Harden deal. Now get rid of Harris and Maxey and suddenly Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang, and Shake Milton are Philly’s only significant role players.

What about the rest of the roster? Assuming Beal’s deal is for the max and Harden opts into his $47.3 million player option, the 76ers will pay $123.2 million for the star trio in 2022-23. That number will then balloon up in subsequent seasons once Embiid’s extension kicks in and Harden’s presumed extension starts up as well.

All that money to those three players means the Sixers will more or less have to go the route of signing cheap veterans to minimum deals in order to round out their bench. But as the Lakers and Nets have shown, that depth gets easily exposed when your stars get hurt.

Considering the injury histories of Beal, Harden, and especially Embiid, that should make Philadelphia wonder whether going all in on a super team is the right move.

The 76ers possess some leverage over the Wizards in any Beal trade

If Philadelphia decides it wants to go after Beal this summer, it’s going to cost a ton in both money and roster depth. However, Daryl Morey has a way to preserve at least some of the latter in any trade negotiations involving the three-time All-Star.

Should Beal elect free agency, he’ll be free to sign anywhere that can afford him. That means the Wizards could risk losing their franchise star for nothing. But the Sixers could swoop in and save the day by giving Washington at least something in return. In an ideal world, that would be Harris and any role role player except Maxey or Thybulle.

However, the Wizards also know the 76ers are desperate to move Harris. And if they end up trading him elsewhere, they’re likely receiving salary in return or packaging assets that would otherwise be used in a Beal trade. As you can see, this can turn into a game of “Chicken” rather quickly.

One thing is for sure. If the 76ers win a title this year, there won’t be nearly as much motivation to make a blockbuster sign-and-trade for Beal. However, if they fall short once again, don’t be surprised if a new super team is formed in Philadelphia, for better or worse.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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