Tommy Sheppard

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Centers, Wall, Draft

The Wizards will focus on improving their defense, especially on the interior, during the upcoming offseason, general manager Tommy Sheppard tells Fred Katz of The Athletic. Washington ranked last in the league in opponents’ points per possession, although the numbers were better over the last month of the season. They allowed teams to shoot 66% from the restricted area, which ranks third from the bottom.

“We’re gonna improve defensively, and a lot of that is by repetition and continuity,” Sheppard said. “We certainly look inside. Maybe we can get some more physicality there and get some more help out on the wings. There’s a lot of need that comes, but sometimes those needs get met by just staying patient (with your) players.”

Sheppard also talked about the need to find a rim protector, which the Wizards didn’t have with the center spot being manned by Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner, along with Ian Mahinmi, who is headed for free agency. Katz suggests Wagner could be effective as a power forward if the team can find a shot blocker for him to play alongside.

Although Washington will be over the salary cap when the offseason arrives, the team will have its full mid-level and biannual exceptions available, along with a lottery pick, to pursue a defensive-minded center.

There’s more Wizards news, all courtesy of Katz:

  • Sheppard is counting on some of the defensive improvement to come from the return of John Wall, who didn’t play at all this season while recovering from a torn Achilles. Washington was ineffective defensively with Isaiah Thomas at point guard before he was traded in February. “When you get John back, that guy was on the All-Defensive Team a few years ago,” Sheppard said. “John can contain the dribble, and that takes a lot of pressure off the defense, too.”
  • The Wizards, who occupy the ninth spot in our Reverse Standings, are planning a “best player available” strategy for the draft, Sheppard added. “You’re talking eight players 23 and younger (on the current roster),” he said. “Throw Jerome (Robinson) in that mix, this kinda gives us a little better opportunity to, ‘Hey, let’s look at the best player available.’ … It just gives you a little bit more options. You wanna draft for your need if it’s possible. But if it’s not possible, you don’t just grab somebody to grab them. You do, ‘Hey, is there somebody else that can add value to your roster?’ And maybe that person is very interesting to some other team — whatever. But I don’t think we can say today, ‘Hey, this is exactly who we need,’ because that player is just not gonna be in college or free agency.”
  • If the NBA season does resume, coach Scott Brooks cautioned that players will need adequate preparation time before games can begin. “NBA players, they can miss six or seven weeks with an injury and have three or four practices and all of a sudden come out and get you 19 points and nine rebounds,” Brooks said. “But I don’t know the answer. We definitely need some time. … I would imagine a week to 10 days is probably the best that we would get. And hopefully we get that.”

Wizards Notes: Centers, Wall, Draft, I. Smith

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Sunday afternoon, and while not all of his answers were especially juicy, he shared a handful of interesting tidbits with fans over the course of that Q&A.

As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington passes along, one of Sheppard’s most noteworthy responses came when he was asked about the Wizards’ center position and how much of the team’s cap flexibility this summer might be put toward addressing it. Sheppard’s answer suggested it won’t be a top priority, according to Hughes.

“If you look at the way the game is played, it’s harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position,” Sheppard wrote. “We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We’re pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Within that Reddit AMA, Sheppard also addressed the progress John Wall is making as he rehabs his Achilles injury, noting that the point guard has scrimmaged with Washington’s G League affiliate. “We’re extremely pleased with John’s condition right now, his participation throughout the rehab process has been fantastic,” Sheppard wrote, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. “I’ve never seen him this motivated to make a full recovery. We see John scrimmage with the Go-Go, we see him at practice with the Wizards. And while the rust is still there, there’s plenty of signs that point to a full recovery.”
  • Jackson Filyo of WashingtonWizards.com passes along a few more of the highlights from Sheppard’s AMA, including the GM’s comments on drafting Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown‘s position, and the Wizards’ plans for the 2020 draft. Sheppard described this year’s draft class as “deeper this year than people realize.”
  • Wizards point guard Ish Smith will be re-evaluated later this week, as his left hamstring injury has gone from a day-to-day issue to a week-to-week ailment. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the details.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, MKG, Toliver, Brooks

Now that Hornets power forward Marvin Williams has officially been waived (Williams just signed with the Bucks), Charlotte’s pivot to a youth movement is complete, according to the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell.

“The goal right now is to get these young guys experience,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “And the more, the better.” 

Here’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Williams’ fellow Hornets vet Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned the minimum salary he will make in his next landing spot (the Mavericks have been rumored to be in the mix for his services) in his buyout arrangement with Charlotte, per Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights (Twitter link). Siegel also notes that, due to this, Kidd-Gilchrist’s buyout accounted for $810,763 of his $13MM salary.
  • All-Star WNBA guard Kristi Toliver, who moonlights as a Wizards assistant coach during her offseason, has decided to move on from the Washington Mystics and sign with the Los Angeles Sparks for the 2020 season. The Wizards expect Toliver to remain in her NBA role for at least the rest of the 2019/20 NBA season, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.
  • In other Wizards news, general manager Tommy Sheppard praised the work that head coach Scott Brooks has done while developing his team this season, per The Athletic’s Fred Katz. “His staff has done a great job,” Sheppard said. “We talk about Moe Wagner. I’ll throw (Isaac) Bonga in there, too. He does something new every night. (Anzejs Pasecniks) went from Exhibit 10 to now being under contract. That didn’t happen by itself.”
  • In case you missed it, Luke Adams compiled news from some other Southeast clubs, in his Heat Notes and Hawks Notes pieces, earlier today.

Wizards Have No Plans To Trade Bertans

The Wizards have given forward Davis Bertans assurances that he won’t be traded, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets

GM Tommy Sheppard has taken a hard stance against dealing Bertans, an unrestricted free agent after this season. Sheppard hopes to re-sign Bertans this summer, Hughes adds.

The 6’10” Bertans has enjoyed a breakout season in his first year with Washington after spending his first three seasons with the Spurs. He’s averaging 15.0 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 40 games this season, including four starts, while making 42.9% of his 3-point attempts. Bertans was acquired last July as part of a three-team swap.

Multiple teams inquired about Bertans but the Wizards have maintained that they view him as a long-term part of their plans despite his free agent status. Their asking price for Bertans was two first-round picks, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (via Twitter).

Wizards Notes: Beal, Wall, McRae, Sheppard

The Wizards need to figure out the source of Bradley Beal‘s frustration and address it right away, writes David Aldridge of The Athletic. Beal lashed out at the team’s “culture” after a tough loss Wednesday in Chicago and said he was frustrated to keep seeing “winnable games” slip away. A source tells Aldridge it was the angriest he has seen Beal since he came to Washington in 2012.

Aldridge notes that the organization went through a major culture change during the offseason, possibly sparked by a similar tirade from Beal last year. Tommy Sheppard replaced Ernie Grunfeld as general manager and upgraded the Wizards’ development staff and pro personnel office. The team now values analytics and second-round draft picks and has a direct relationship with its G League affiliate.

With those changes in place, Aldridge suggests that Beal is now upset about the culture inside the locker room, specifically a lax approach to defense. Whatever the issue is, Aldridge notes that Beal has plenty of close friends around the league who would love to play alongside him. He signed a two-year extension in October, but could start looking for a way out if things don’t improve next season.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • John Wall participated in a “controlled” four-on-four scrimmage with teammates at today’s practice, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic. It’s a step up for Wall, who had been playing four-on-four with the player development staff. He has also taken part in three-on-two and two-on-one drills with other Wizards players, said coach Scott Brooks (Twitter link), who added that he still isn’t sure if Wall will try to return this season.
  • Jordan McRae‘s ankle injury appears less serious than the Wizards originally feared, Katz adds (Twitter link). McRae was in a walking boot after Friday’s game, but he was able to practice today as a limited participant.
  • Sheppard is restoring fans’ faith in the front office with a series of successful moves, observes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. First-round pick Rui Hachimura looked like a solid NBA player before his injury, while Davis Bertans, Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga were all acquired for virtually nothing in return. Sheppard also opted to sign Ish Smith instead of giving a big contract to Tomas Satoransky, and has gotten good production from Garrison MathewsAnzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II.

Bradley Beal Discusses New Contract Extension

Bradley Beal‘s decision to sign a two-year contract extension with the Wizards on Thursday surprised many NBA observers, since Beal could have potentially signed a more lucrative contract in a year or simply chose not to extend his stay with his rebuilding franchise. Speaking to reporters, including David Aldridge of The Athletic, the All-Star shooting guard explained why he opted to sign the new deal, which will lock him up through at least the 2021/22 season.

“I guess legacy at the end of the day,” Beal said. “This is where I’ve been for the last seven years, going on eight. I have an opportunity to be able to turn this thing around. A lot of people doubt that. I view it as a challenge. I view it as something that I feel a lot of D.C. sports have been a part of, rebuilding something and kind of building them into championship-caliber teams. Why not me? Why kind of sell myself short of a great opportunity that I have in my hands right now?”

While the extension is a big win for the Wizards and new general manager Tommy Sheppard, it’s worth noting that Beal only tacked on one guaranteed season to his current deal, so his commitment to the organization isn’t as long-term as it could have been.

One person with knowledge of Beal’s thinking tells Aldridge that the 26-year-old is “giving [Sheppard] a chance now that he’s in charge.” If the Wizards don’t show real progress in the next year or two, it’s still possible that Beal will have second thoughts about whether he wants to remain in D.C. long-term.

Here’s more on Beal’s new deal:

  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington hears that Sheppard and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, along with other Wizards executives, flew to Chicago last month to meet with Beal and agent Mark Bartelstein. Beal had the opportunity at that meeting to ask questions about the franchise’s direction. “I just felt comfortable with where we were going,” Beal said. “I talked to Ted and they kind of projected the future and gave me the layout of what we can do in the future.”
  • Fred Katz of The Athletic explores how Beal’s extension affects the Wizards’ rebuilding process, noting that having the two-time All-Star under contract for at least the next three years gives the team some extra security to be patient with its roster moves.
  • Ben Golliver of The Washington Post digs into what the extension means to Sheppard, a first-time general manager who was placed in a tough situation.
  • The Heat were known to be one team that would have serious interest in Beal if the Wizards changed course and decided to trade him, but that will no longer be an option for Miami, at least during the 2019/20 season, as Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel writes.

Southeast Notes: Rozier, Sheppard, Spoelstra, Wizards

New Hornets guard Terry Rozier is eager to prove himself after changing teams this past summer in free agency, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer writes.

Rozier, 25, left the Celtics after spending four seasons on the team, opting to sign a three-year, $58MM contract with the Hornets organization.

“I’m pissed off about a lot of stuff,” Rozier said. “I want to prove myself again.”

The Hornets lost All-Star guard Kemba Walker to Boston on a four-year pact during free agency, and they’re widely projected to be one of the league’s most underwhelming teams this season.

For Rozier, joining the Hornets — a team that had immediate interest in him — offers the ability to receive a clear starting role at point guard. The topic was briefly discussed with team owner Michael Jordan, who expressed his desire to add Rozier on a new deal.

“He didn’t have to show me too much. Him being Michael Jordan was 80 to 90 percent of it,” Rozier recalled. “He believes in me. He wanted to give me the opportunity to show my talent at the highest level. How can you turn that down?”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard will be more focused on player development than win totals this season, Howard Fendrich of The Associated Press writes. Washington drafted impressive forward Rui Hachimura with the No. 9 pick in the draft and could play the entire season without All-Star John Wall due to a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
  • The contract extension between Erik Spoelstra and the Heat may have been finalized, but there remains plenty of work ahead for Spoelstra with the organization, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. Spoelstra is the second longest-tenured head coach in the NBA (2008), trailing behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (1996).
  • Candace Buckner of the Washington Post examines three questions for the Wizards entering the 2019/20 season. Washington has several important factors to discuss this season, including a potential extension with Bradley Beal, whether Hachimura should start and Wall’s progress from injury rehab.

Wizards Notes: Sheppard, Wall, Roster, Brooks

New GM Tommy Sheppard indicated in a press conference this week that the Wizards will be giving a lot more minutes to younger players this year, relays Fred Katz of The Athletic. Sheppard stated that the organization wants to have each rookie play at least 1,500 minutes between the NBA and the G League. That represents a significant change from last season, when Bradley Beal led the league in minutes played and coach Scott Brooks relied heavily on his veterans.

Washington has a pair of rookies with guaranteed contracts in Rui Hachimura and Admiral Schofield, so they should see plenty of time with the Wizards. Garrison Mathews, who has a two-way deal, and Justin Robinson, who wasn’t drafted but has a chance to make the final roster, could both wind up at Capital City. Troy Brown, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones, all second-year players who didn’t see much time last season, may spend time there as well.

“We gotta show them why and how it’s good for them,” Sheppard said about selling the approach to veterans. “But I think they’re active participants in it, and I think everybody appreciates that we’re trying to prolong careers. You make a bad decision on a player — they go out, and they pop a hamstring, or something happens which could’ve been avoided because of fatigue factor we didn’t recognize — that’s on us.”

There’s more from D.C., all courtesy of Katz:

  • John Wall is serving as a virtual assistant coach while he waits to return from a ruptured Achilles that may sideline him for the entire season. Sheppard said Wall is helping to teach the younger players, and the team won’t pressure him to try to return. “We’re not waiting on a calendar. There’s not a clock when he comes back,” he said. “He comes back when he’s 100 percent.”
  • The Wizards have 13 players with guaranteed contracts and may opt to go with a 14-player roster rather than the maximum of 15. “If you have 15 players and one gets hurt, (using a two-way player) is the only way you can plug it,” Sheppard said. “You have 14 players; you can sign somebody and bring them in that’s not in the G League. It gives you optionality … My vision, putting rosters together, it doesn’t make a lot of sense not to hold back a roster spot for the competition, for the inevitable injury, something.” Jordan McRae, who has a $400K guarantee, is considered likely to earn a roster spot, according to Katz, but injuries to Wall and Isaiah Thomas increase the need for another point guard.
  • Brooks, who is entering the fourth year of his five-year contract, will be judged on building a positive culture rather than wins and losses, Sheppard 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 Officially Announce Front Office Changes

The Wizards have officially named Tommy Sheppard their general manager, confirming the decision today in a press release. A Friday report had indicated that Sheppard – who held the position on an interim basis since April – would get the job on a permanent basis.

Washington’s press release includes announcements on other changes to the team’s front office. Most notably, Sashi Brown will serve as the chief planning and operations officer for Monumental Basketball, according to the franchise. Brown is a former NFL executive who worked in the Cleveland Browns’ front office for two years from 2016-17.

The Wizards also announced that Daniel Medina – previously the VP of athlete care for the Sixers – will be the organization’s chief of athlete care and performance, while former Georgetown and Princeton head coach John Thompson III will lead a new athlete development and engagement department.

“We have formed a new leadership team with a forward-thinking structure to adapt to the ‘new NBA’ that requires every possible strategic advantage to compete and win,” Wizards team owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement. “We are building a leadership brain trust with deep Wizards/NBA experience and with sports professionals from inside and outside the NBA to challenge our thinking and adapt to an ever-increasing competitive environment.”

While Brown and Medina will play major roles in overseeing programs and services for all Monumental Basketball franchises – including the Washington Mystics (WNBA) and Capital City Go-Go (G League), it will be Sheppard who remains in charge of the basketball operations department for the Wizards.

According to the team’s release, Sheppard will lead strategy, analytics, player personnel, scouting, and coaching for the Wizards and Go-Go.