Ted Leonsis

Wizards Extend, Promote Tommy Sheppard

The Wizards have signed general manager Tommy Sheppard to a contract extension and promoted him, as reported by Ava Wallace of The Washington Post and confirmed by the team in a press release. Sheppard will now hold the title of team president in addition to GM.

Sheppard took control of the Wizards’ front office in 2019, replacing longtime head of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld. He finalized a short-term extension with Bradley Beal during his first few months on the job and has since reshaped the roster around the star guard.

After winning just 25 games in Sheppard’s first season at the helm, the Wizards earned a playoff spot in 2020/21 and are off to a 10-3 start this season, putting them atop the Eastern Conference. Sheppard has received praise for his offseason deal that turned pricey star Russell Westbrook into several reliable rotation players and allowed the team to add Spencer Dinwiddie via sign-and-trade.

In addition to extending and promoting Sheppard, the Wizards have done the same for chief planning and operations officer Sashi Brown. The team says Brown will be the president of Monumental Basketball, as well as a special advisor to the Office of the CEO at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the group that owns and operates the Wizards.

“Tommy has effectively improved our team each year of his tenure by following the plan he laid out to us as his vision when we hired him as general manager and Sashi has been instrumental in making us a leader in analytics, research and player engagement while efficiently streamlining operations across all of our basketball teams and venues,” Wizards owner and Monumental Sports & Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis said in a statement. “Their combined efforts have put us in a position to compete now with an exciting and hard-working team while also having the flexibility to execute our long-term strategy of building a championship program that is a leader in the community.”

Wizards Notes: Gafford, Beal, Leonsis, Dinwiddie

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis considers Daniel Gafford a “core piece,” which is why the organization chose to give the young big man an extension, as he told Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“I think he’s a core piece. To have a center that young with that kind of defensive presence, I think you saw that (in Wednesday’s opener),” Leonsis said. “People were thinking twice before coming into the lane. A couple of blocks kind of gets in their head. We haven’t had that kind of size, skill and leaping ability in a long, long time.”

Gafford’s three-year extension is worth $40.2MM.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Bradley Beal missed the team’s 135-134 overtime win over Indiana on Friday with a right hip contusion, Hughes tweets. Coach Wes Unseld Jr. is optimistic Beal will return to action on Monday at Brooklyn, according to The Associated Press.
  • The franchise has a max extension offer on the table for Beal but Leonsis isn’t fretting over the fact his star player is taking a wait-and-see approach, Hughes writes in a separate story. Beal can choose to opt out after this season if he wants to seek a new opportunity or if he wants to maximize his earnings with the Wizards. “Brad and I have a very respectful, very honest relationship. … He will obviously always do what’s right for his family. We will do what’s right for the organization,” Leonsis said. “I believe — and I think he believes — that there is synergy in what’s best for him and what’s best for us. It’s not something he’s obsessing over or we’re obsessing over.”
  • Key offseason addition Spencer Dinwiddie carried the team to its overtime win on Friday with 34 points and nine assists. Dinwiddie, acquired in a sign-and-trade, made several clutch 3-pointers and calls himself one of the league’s best in that department, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post writes. “Look, I get it, I’m not the sexiest name, nor do I [pretend to be] Dame [Lillard] or Steph [Curry] or none of those guys. But those things happen; the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “Like, game-winning shots, we can go on YouTube and look at mine. And if Brad’s out, I probably will be the one taking those most times, I would say.”

Wizards’ Coaching Search Will Be ‘Diverse, Robust’

With Scott Brooks officially out as the Wizards’ head coach, his replacement won’t be named quickly. GM Tommy Sheppard said he will conduct a “very diverse, very robust” search, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. Sheppard also used the words “thorough” and “inclusive” to describe the search, which suggests that he might give serious consideration to a woman candidate.

We have more interesting tidbits from Sheppard’s press conference on Wednesday:

  • Sheppard said he opted to part ways with Brooks and then informed team chairman Ted Leonsis of his plan. Leonsis gave a rubber stamp of approval, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. “‘If that’s what you want to do, then that’s what you’ll do,'” Leonsis told Sheppard.
  • The ability to communicate well with the players will be high on the list of traits Sheppard is seeking for his next coach, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. Sheppard doesn’t want the next coach to take on too much responsibility — he’ll seek one that’s willing to have offensive and defensive “coordinators” on this staff.
  • Sheppard will be seeking more depth and veteran leadership in free agency and trades this offseason, Youngmisuk relays in a separate tweet. He isn’t worried about finding plenty of worthy candidates for the head coaching job on a team that make the playoffs this season, adding that “D.C. will sell itself.”

Wizards Rumors: Bertans, Rebuild, Ujiri, Grant

When the Spurs traded Davis Bertans to the Wizards this offseason, they viewed it as a necessary step to open up their mid-level exception to sign Marcus Morris. However, after Morris reneged on his agreement with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich was upset to have lost Bertans in the process.

As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks acknowledged that Popovich praised the Latvian forward when the two coaches talked over the summer. While Bertans was known for his shooting ability, Popovich believed the former Spur could take on a more dynamic role.

“[Popovich] is a good scout,” Brooks said on Wednesday, per Hughes. “He nailed it on [Bertans] when I talked to him over the summer. He said, ‘[Davis] is more than a shooter.'”

Bertans is making good on Popovich’s scouting report so far, exhibiting an ability to handle the ball and create his own shot. The 27-year-old may also be turning into a valuable trade chip for the Wizards, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link).

“Bertans is a difference-maker when it comes to his play on the court,” a scout told Marks. “Don’t be surprised if teams are willing to give up a first-rounder for him closer to the deadline.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis doesn’t necessarily believe that the team needs to endure a long, painful rebuilding process before returning to contention, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes. “Next year, we’ll have John Wall back. We’ll have a little bit of space under the salary cap,” Leonsis said. “I think the NBA is very different this year than it’s been in the past, and I stick with, I think, our turnaround can be quick and fast, but we don’t have any expectations about wins and losses. It’s more about culture, identity and what players will be with us on a long-term basis.”
  • In an in-depth profile of Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, Trevor Cole of Toronto Life says the Wizards “unofficially” conveyed to Ujiri this past offseason that they’d be willing to give him whatever he wanted – including a stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Wizards – to run their front office. The Wizards denied reports of their interest in Ujiri in June.
  • The Capital City Go-Go – Washington’s G League affiliate – claimed Jerian Grant off waivers earlier this week, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. Grant, a former first-round pick with four years of NBA experience under his belt, recently signed a G League contract following a brief stint in China.

Wizards Notes: Offense, Bertans, Beal, Wall

The Wizards are shooting more three-pointers than ever before, as I recently detailed on NBAMath. In fact, every Wizards’ rotation player is experiencing a career-high in three-pointers shot per game.

Washington is currently 1-4 on the year but the team’s offensive efficiency ranks sixth in the league. That’s an improvement on last season, when the Wizards were league average in the stat. The offseason of change in the nation’s capital has led to improvement on at least one side of the ball. Now, the defense is a story for another day.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • Candace Buckner of The Washington Post examines the Moritz Wagner and Davis Bertans pairing. The duo came to the Wizards in separate trades this offseason.
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis insists that Bradley Beal and John Wall have a better relationship than various reports over the years have suggested, as Matt Weyrich of NBC Sports relays. “Brad and John are way closer than the media portrays,” Leonsis said on The Habershow podcast. “They are also deeply immersed in the culture of the NBA and history of the NBA. Having a great backcourt is priority one and why would you want to, if you’re a great player, be a sidekick, if you will. And is that leading to happiness? I mean that’s the amazing thing that you see. You’ve never seen as many unhappy people as you’re seeing in the NBA.”
  • Beal recently signed an extension to stay with the Wizards for two additional years. Leonsis is happy with the new deal and talked about how he couldn’t understand why top players would go somewhere where they are not a top option. “If you get a young player and they’re a part of building your culture and the team, the culture really becomes theirs,” Leonsis said. “That’s the key thing and so if you’re gifted, and you’re gonna get paid in the NBA, why go play and be the third wheel? It’s counter-intuitive to me. Like, it’s LeBron’s team in LA. How’d it go last year? Did anyone look happy in L.A.? So Brad and John and the players here, they’re a part of something and it’s gonna be really, really hard. But [they’re] in it together.”

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Chalmers, Isaac, Wall

The Heat will need to use Justise Winslow at either point guard or power forward to optimize their other main wing options, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines in his latest mailbag. Putting Winslow at the ‘one’ or ‘four’ would allow coach Erik Spoelstra to play rookie Tyler Herro and Dion Waiters more often with the team’s top player, Jimmy Butler. If Winslow ends up playing regularly at small forward, Spoelstra would have to choose between Herro and Waiters as a mainstay in the rotation, Winderman adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • A reunion between the Heat and point guard Mario Chalmers is unlikely at this point, Winderman writes in another mailbag post. Chalmers, 33, is aiming for an NBA comeback after playing in Italy last season. However, even if the Heat are interested, they’d have to release Kendrick Nunn in order to create a roster spot for Chalmers since the team is hard-capped, Winderman notes.
  • Entering his third season, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is brimming with optimism over his team’s future after it reached the playoffs last season. Isaac likes the team’s continuity after it re-signed key free agents Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, as he told John Denton of the team’s website. “We’re all hyped up for the season,’” he said. “And I’m sure as guys get together and start playing again, we’ll have more of those talks about, ‘Hey, we can go even farther than we did last (season).'”
  • The Wizards are closely monitoring John Wall‘s rehab process as he works his way back from a ruptured Achilles, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. They are even providing owner Ted Leonsis with daily progress reports. “I used to start my day reading the Washington Post. Now I start my day reading [and watching] my daily John Wall exercise video,” Leonsis told Hughes.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Waiters, Heat, Leonsis

The Wizards are eyeing their own version of load management with a new commitment to sports science this season, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Washington hired the likes of Dr. Daniel Medina and Mark Simpson in preparation, Buckner notes, with the team also creating the Monumental Basketball Athlete Care and Performance department to help monitor the workloads of each active player on the year.

“I think we did a good job in the past,” GM Tommy Sheppard said of managing players’ minutes. “I just think there are opportunities to add to that and certainly that’s what Danny’s expertise and Mark’s expertise will blend very well. It’s really trying to individualize a lot more.”

The Wizards have worked hard to protect superstar Bradley Beal in recent seasons, with the 26-year-old not missing a single game over the past two years. Beal led the league in minutes per game with 36.9 last season, however, leaving Sheppard and others to take all factors into consideration.

“The fact that he was able to perform at the level that he did, I think proves that [he was healthy]. Now, can we bring his minutes down? Sure. But is it the right thing to do? Is that the best thing for Bradley? Is it the best thing for the Wizards?” Sheppard said. “What I think is exciting about the staff we have assembled and the people that we’re blending in, that’s for everybody, the collective, to come up with. That’s where we are right now. We haven’t made any conclusions yet.” 

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Heat could greatly benefit from having the old Dion Waiters back to form this season, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Waiters, who averaged 15.8 points in 46 games with Miami during the 2016/17 season, received a career-low 25.9 minutes in his 44 contests last season. He’s mostly dealt with injuries in recent years, causing him to miss over half of his games in a Heat uniform.
  • In a separate article for the Sun Sentinel, Ira Winderman ponders whether the Heat will continue scanning the market for a leading man after acquiring Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia this offseason. Miami has long been linked to Bradley Beal, though the Wizards have maintained he’s off limits in trade conversations.
  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis called a number of people for advice before organizing the team’s new basketball operations department, Candace Buckner details for the Washington Post. Leonsis spoke with the likes of Gregg Popovich, Adam Silver, Barack Obama and 75 others involved in business and professional sports, Buckner notes.

Eastern Notes: Harris, Satoransky, Leonsis, Heat

Nets shooting guard Joe Harris could double his salary in free agency next summer, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Harris will make $7.67MM during the upcoming season and Scotto notes that veteran shooting guards received well above that figure in free agency this summer. Danny Green signed a two-year, $30MM deal with the Lakers while J.J. Redick got a two-year, $26.5MM contract with the Pelicans.

Harris might get even more, as Scotto points out that several other comparable shooting guards are making between $17.2MM and $20MM this season. The Nets hold Harris’ Bird Rights, giving them the inside track on signing him.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Tomas Satoransky‘s price tag became too much to bear for the Wizards in restricted free agency, as Fred Katz of The Athletic details. The Bulls offered him a three-year, $30MM contract and Washington felt that was too much for a player who’d be a backup once John Wall returned from his Achilles injury. A sign-and-trade was worked out that brought back a 2020 second-round pick and other considerations to Washington. Satoransky wasn’t disappointed. “I always felt like, for me, it was always harder than for others,” he said of his experience in Washington. “I had to always keep proving (myself) to people. And I always felt like, ‘Man, I’ve done enough to have that.’ So, I felt this needs a new start.”
  • Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis will be more visible with a new front office structure in place, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Our owners are going to be more involved,” Leonsis said. “You constantly have to gauge back and forth: is it good to be involved, or is it not good to be involved? Every agent, every player that I’ve talked to said the more they see Raul Fernandez and Laurene Powell-Jobs and me, the more connected they feel to what our vision and what our ultimate plan is.”
  • Any package that the Heat would send out in a potential Bradley Beal and Wall deal with the Wizards would need to include James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow and Kelly Olynyk for salary-matching purposes, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. Trading for Beal alone would probably require the Heat to give up their three best assets, Bam Adebayo, Winslow and Tyler Herro, but they wouldn’t realistically be able to attach a draft pick until next June, Jackson adds.

Wizards Notes: Leonis, Sheppard, Brown, Medina, Roster

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis believes the franchise can make a quick turnaround, as he told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He believes that with backcourt stars John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way, Washington can become a contender. However, Wall is expected to miss all of next season as he recovers from an Achilles tear.

“My belief is that you can you do things fast. We have the wherewithal and resources and facilities and technology,” Leonsis said. “If we can bring John back and, with Brad, develop our draft picks and assets, start to manage the [salary] cap, why can’t this be quick? It doesn’t need to be a five years it took when we drafted John and Brad. We can turn this one faster.”

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Leonsis indicated that new GM Tommy Sheppard and chief planning and operations officer Sashi Brown will have equal say on decisions where their duties overlap, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Chase Hughes. There is going to be much more shared decision-making in the new front office setup. However, Brown said that basketball personnel decisions will ultimately be made by Sheppard (Twitter links).
  • Daniel Medina will also play a major front office role, according to USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt. Medina has been hired as the chief of athlete care and performance for Monumental Basketball. He will focus on medical, training, mental health, strength and conditioning, nutrition, and physical therapy and recovery. “The goal is to create a very collaborative, many-hands-make-light-work level and be prepared for the new NBA where data technology and health and wellness and all of these services merge with what is happening on the court,” Leonsis said.
  • Leonsis now believes having three max players on the roster isn’t conducive to building a successful team, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. Leonsis previously felt that having three max stars was the way to go but he now subscribes to the theory that spreading the wealth is a better approach. “Depth is becoming so much more important in this league, just because of the injuries,” he said.

Wizards Won’t Hire New Team President Before Free Agency

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said the team will not fill its vacant team president opening before free agency, as he detailed in a statement to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

“I am very happy with the work and preparation Tommy Sheppard, Coach [Scott] Brooks and our staff have done and I’m confident we’ll execute both the draft and free agency in an expert manner,” Leonsis said in the statement. “Having that confidence has given me the freedom to continue the conversations I’ve been having on how to build a great organization and, as a result, I don’t expect to make any decisions before the start of free agency.”

Leonsis also addressed the reports that the Wizards would try to pry Masai Ujiri from the Raptors, denying that the organization has spoken to – or plans to speak with – Toronto’s president of basketball operations.

“We have not commented on the many rumors surrounding potential candidates during this process, but I wanted to make an exception in this case out of respect to the Raptors organization as they celebrate their well-deserved championship,” Leonsis’s statement said. “Any reports that we have interest in Masai Ujiri as a candidate are simply not true, and we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process.”

The franchise has been without a team president since April 2. Since then, the team has interviewed a handful of executives, including Sheppard and Gersson Rosas, who took the gig with the Wolves. Washington made an offer to Tim Connelly, but the executive chose to remain with the Nuggets as their team president. Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver have also interviewed with the Wizards.

The draft and free agency are the most critical events in an NBA offseason. Leonsis, whose Capitals are a year removed from winning an NHL championship, is comfortable going through them with the infrastructure in place.

I intend to create a leadership team when it feels exactly right and is in alignment with our findings and our final developed specifications,” Leonsis said.

“As I have said, we will likely use ‘many hands make light work’ as a mantra as we seek to establish a new organizational construct that is in line with what future of the NBA will look like: creating a shared platform on health sciences, data analytics, venue management, skills training, etc., for all of our basketball franchises.”