What are the chances Bradley Beal actually comes to Boston?


All it took was a seemingly disputed report about Bradley Beal’s opt-out to reignite speculation about the three-time All-Star coming to Boston.

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With president of basketball operations Brad Stevens acknowledging the Celtics need another playmaker, it seems as if they could be amenable to bringing Beal aboard, though the cost my be prohibitive. Stevens also indicated he doesn’t want to make wholesale changes to a roster that came within two games of winning the NBA championship.

“We have to walk a fine line a little bit. I think teams are fragile,” he said.

On Tuesday night, HoopsHype reported Beal is expected to decline his $36.4 million player option for the 2022-23 season and enter unrestricted free agency.

That news was apparently surprising to Beal. He seemed to deny the report on Twitter — in the slightly cryptic language that dominates NBA rumors this time of year.

Beal’s future with the Wizards has long been the subject of speculation, with the Celtics continually being mentioned as a possible suitor. Jayson Tatum grew up with Beal in the St. Louis area and views him as a mentor. They played together briefly last summer on the U.S. Olympic team, though Beal missed the tournament due to injury.

The Wizards have started to build around Beal since he signed a two-year extension in October 2019. But they took a step back this season. After qualifying for the play-in tournament in 2021, they finished 12th in the Eastern Conference last season.

Beal saw his scoring average drop to 23.2 points, its lowest since 2017-18.

Those trends indicate Beal could be looking to sign elsewhere, except he would earn much more money staying in Washington. As ex-Celtics exec Ryan McDonough explained on NBC Sports Boston, Beal would make $64 million more if he opts out of his contract and re-signs with the Wizards. They are the only team with whom he can sign for years.

Financially, the Celtics are playing from a disadvantage if Beal reaches free agency, because they don't have the cap space to sign him straight up. That means there would have to be a sign-and-trade.

But that would likely require surrendering most of their assets outside of Tatum and Jaylen Brown. To make the salaries work, Al Horford ($26.5 million on an expiring deal) would probably be included. Then the Celtics may have to offer Robert Williams III, Grant Williams and others.

That kind of trade would represent a wholesale change, which Stevens implied he doesn’t want to do.

Tatum-Brown-Beal is a great trio to think about. But it doesn’t look like the longstanding fantasy is poised to become reality.