Wizards fire GM Tommy Sheppard after missing playoffs again
For consecutive years, the Washington Wizards had 35-win seasons that left them out of the playoffs. That despite big moves off the court — re-signing Bradley Beal, trading for Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma.
That was enough to get GM Tommy Sheppard fired.
“Failure to make the playoffs the last two seasons was very disappointing to our organization and our fans,” Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement announcing the firing. “A search for new leadership will begin immediately for an executive from outside the organization.”
This is not expected to impact the job security of coach Wes Unseld Jr., at least in the short term.
Sheppard had been with the Wizards for more than 20 years in different capacities, including as the right hand to former GM Ernie Grunfeld. When Grunfeld was fired in 2019, Sheppard was given the interim tag and eventually kept the job.
Sheppard made a variety of big moves, such as trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook (then later trading Westbrook to the Lakers in a trade that brought back Kuzma). Sheppard also traded for Porzingis, then this summer gave Beal a max five-year, $251 million extension that included a player option on the final year and a no-trade clause (handing Beal a lot of control over any potential trade, should he ask out). Outside of acquiring Kuzma, none of those moves has worked out as hoped.
In his end-of-season press conference, Sheppard talked about the priority of re-signing Kuzma, talked about a contract extension with Porzingis, and sounded more like a guy looking to make tweaks to a roster than bold changes.
Two names to watch in the search for a new GM (according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic): Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri (who Leonsis has had an interest in before) and Timberwolves president and Baltimore native Tim Connelly. Both men currently have jobs they may not want to leave, and to pry them away may take more money and promises of control than Leonsis is willing to give up. But it’s a place to start.