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GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

There is an argument, and I've made it before, that John Wall's contract and injury situation combine for one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Never before has a player making as much money as he is suffered an injury as serious as his ruptured left Achilles. He takes up 35% of the salary cap, is not playing this season and has no guarantees of returning to his All-Star form once he comes back.

Even if Wall does return to his prime form, and there's reason to be hopeful he can, his contract includes a lot of money for the Wizards to work around. And that has created a scenario where making small moves count matter even more than they otherwise would.

The Wizards have to maximize all of their other resources, much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they ultimately overcame the disastrous 2014 trade with the Boston Celtics that left them paying a debt of high first-round picks for years. Brooklyn worked around their draft pick blackhole by hitting on late-round selections plus minor signings and trades. And they built a foundation along the way that made them surprising heavyweights in free agency. 

The Wizards have plenty of work to do, but first-year general manager Tommy Sheppard is already proving his worth in peripheral transactions, the types that turned the Nets around. They may be less-heralded acquisitions, but they can also become major separators between GMs.

Sheppard has been running the Wizards front office for less than a calendar year, yet he already has an impressive list of marginal moves. Just recently he turned Isaiah Thomas, who was a glaring detriment on the defensive end, into Jerome Robinson, the 13th overall pick just 20 months ago.

Last offseason, his first as GM, he flipped Aaron White, a former second-round pick who was stashed in Europe, for Davis Bertans, who has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He also turned cap space into Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, two guys with intriguing potential. Wagner, in particular, has emerged as a building block.

There are other minor moves Sheppard has made that stand out as good ones. He may have found something in Garrison Mathews, a rookie on a two-way deal who can light it up from three. Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have been nice surprises as end-of-the-roster guys. And signing Ish Smith for less money instead of retaining Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a smart decision.

Sheppard continues to nail the smaller moves but he has also hit on some of the bigger ones. He drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall in June and he has exceeded expectations thus far. Sheppard also re-signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension in October, a move few saw coming.

What will ultimately write the story of Sheppard's tenure as GM are decisions even bigger than those. There will also be some level of luck between the draft lottery, injuries and other factors.

But the best signs for what the Wizards should hope they get from Sheppard are already there. They need someone who can maximize all roster-building opportunities and work within the tight space of their remaining salary cap.

So far, Sheppard has done just that.

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Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

Rui Hachimura to take on Donovan Mitchell in first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament

NBA fans will get a chance to watch some of their favorite players go head-to-head once again, just not in the setting we're used to. 

With the regular season under suspension, the NBA announced the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament, featuring 16 players who will play each other in NBA 2K20 for $100,000 donated to coronavirus support efforts. 

The tournament will begin on April 3 on ESPN and will include the following players seeded 1-through-16 based first on their 2K rating and second on their seniority in the league:

1. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets (96)
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (90)
3. Hassan Whiteside, Portland Trail Blazers (87)
4. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (87)
5. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns (86)
6. Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers (85)
7. Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (85)
8. Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers (85)
9. Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (85)
10. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (85)
11. DeMarcus Cousins (81)
12. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (81)
13. Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards (79)
14. Patrick Beverley, LA Clippers (78)
15. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings (78)
16. Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat (78)

Each player will choose eight current NBA teams to use before the tournament starts, though they can only use each of their selections once. The first two rounds are single elimination, while the semifinals and finals will be best of three. 

Wizards standout rookie Rui Hachimura enters the tournament as the No. 13 seed and will begin the tournament against Utah's All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell Friday. Mitchell may have a higher 2K rating and status in the league, but there's no telling where either player's 2K skills stand. 

Hachimura could very well take Mitchell down and set up a showdown with the winner of Andre Drummond vs. DeMarcus Cousins. 

The first round will begin Friday and run through the weekend, with the second round airing next Tuesday and the semifinals and finals wrapping up the tournament on Saturday, April 11. 

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Drew Gooden will answer questions in a special-edition mailbag

Drew Gooden will answer questions in a special-edition mailbag

Retired NBA player and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Drew Gooden is taking your questions.

To ask Drew a question about the NBA, Wizards, his career or anything else (within reason of course), please email drewgoodenmailbag@gmail.com. 

Drew will pick a handful of questions to respond to in this special-edition NBA on hiatus mailbag.