Wizards fans rejoice! Interim President of Basketball Ops. Tommy Sheppard is expected to remain in the role and receive the full-time GM job according to Fred Katz of The Athletic.
Though no contract has officially been formalized the team plans to make an announcement within the next week.
Sheppard has done an excellent job since becoming the Wizards interim President of Basketball Ops. since he took over the job on April 2 when Ernie Grunfeld was let go by owner Ted Leonsis.
Unlike Grunfeld, Sheppard values many different things real general managers value when building a team in the NBA. We’ve seen Sheppard value and trade for young talent as he and team owner Ted Leonsis realize that the Wizards won’t be competitive during the 2019-2020 season especially without John Wall.
Sheppard has acquired young players and has built depth during his short tenure as the interim general manager. In 25 years working various jobs in NBA front offices, Sheppard has seen and learned a lot working with both the Nuggets and Wizards front office.
“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 a statement to The Washington Post before the NBA Draft. “Having that confidence has given me the freedom to continue the conversations I’ve been having on how to build a great organization.”
During his career, Sheppard has held various positions such as the Nuggets’ Senior Director of Team Services and Player Relations, and most recently Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Wizards.
Sheppard knows the Wizards system inside and out but is looking to change the culture of the organization after he traded away Dwight Howard, brought in a few second-round picks and traded for some young talent.
Many front offices around the league know the value Sheppard brings to an NBA front office as he was a candidate for a few GM openings in recent years. Sheppard was interviewed for the Hawks GM opening in 2017 and was most recently a candidate for the Pelicans opening but was taken out of the running when he was promoted into the interim role with the Wizards.
“If anybody deserves a shot it’s [Tommy] Sheppard,” one high ranking league executive told NBC Sports Washington when he was promoted to the interim role.
Many see the Grunfeld firing as a Brian MacLellan situation who was the understudy to then-Capitals general manager George McPhee who failed to put a Capitals team on the ice that could make it past the second round. Ted Leonsis, the owner of both the Capitals and Wizards, inserted MacLellan into the interim GM role following the dismissal of McPhee following the 2013-2014 season. The Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup under MacLellan’s guidance.
Since assuming the interim role, Sheppard has overseen a lot of turnover on the Wizards’ roster. He drafted both forward Rui Hachimura and traded for small forward Admiral Schofield’s draft rights who was drafted in the second round on draft night.
Sheppard also allowed both Bobby Portis, Trevor Ariza and Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency but got creative when Satoransky agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Bulls. Realizing that Wizards fans would be upset with Sato leaving Sheppard was able to acquire a 2020 second-round pick in a sign-and-trade with the Bulls.
Sheppard is expected to let Jabari Parker also but has replaced Portis, Ariza and Satoransky with some young depth through trades when he sent $1.1 million to the Pelicans and received Mo Wagner, Issac Bonga, Jerrio Jones and a 2022 second-round pick to complete the Anthony Davis trade. The 2022 second-round pick is particularly interesting because the NBA is expected to allow high schoolers to enter the NBA draft in 2022 and the draft class is expected to be loaded with a lot of young talent.
Sheppard has also added some three-point shooting depth after he traded for the sharpshooting wing player in CJ Miles who will provide some veteran leadership to a young Wizards lineup. Sheppard also acquired Davis Bertans from the San Antonio Spurs when the Spurs made his salary expendable to add salary cap space to take on DeMarre Carroll’s three-year, $21 million deal.
Sheppard also brought back rising star Thomas Bryant on a three-year, $25 million steal. The 21-year-old came over via waivers in August before the start of last season. Bryant is set to become a franchise cornerstone after playing above expectations and leading the league in two-point shot percentage.
Sheppard also brought Isaiah Thomas to Washington on a one-year, veteran minimum deal which could turn out to be a steal for the Wizards. If Thomas were to find flashes of his former self when he was averaging 28.9 points per game during the 2016-2017 season. If the Wizards are below .500 in the standings come trade deadline time, the Wizards could sell high on Thomas if all goes well in Thomas’ play.
All in all, the Wizards have set themselves up to be competitive in future seasons in just one offseason thanks to Tommy Sheppard.