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IT Week: A recent history of Wizards reclamation projects

IT Week: A recent history of Wizards reclamation projects

Do the Wizards take on more reclamation projects than other NBA teams? Maybe, maybe not. But it does seem like they are more willing to give a players second (or third) chances after their careers have gotten away from them, hoping Washington becomes the place they recapture what they once had.

Especially in the past several years, as the Wizards have sought cheap, high-upside players for their bench, they have brought in a series of players whose careers or reputations had recently taken a hit. The latest is point guard Isaiah Thomas, who signed a one-year free agent contract in July. 

Thomas, now 30, is only two years removed from being an All-NBA player. But a nagging right hip injury has disrupted his career, limiting him to just 44 games the past two seasons, including only 12 last year. 

The Wizards are banking on Thomas having better health with them than he did in Cleveland, L.A. and Denver. If he can stay on the court and return to something close to what he was with the Celtics, the Wizards will look very smart. 

But, as they well know, sometimes it doesn't work out that way. In many cases, the player you acquire remains the player you heard about before he arrived. 

Here is a look at some of the Wizards' most recent reclamation projects and whether they worked out in Washington.

Markieff Morris

With Wizards: 2015-19
Did it work out?: Yes
Why: Morris came to Washington in a February 2015 trade with his reputation in shambles due to some serious off-court troubles and an altercation with a Phoenix Suns assistant coach. Still, the Wizards had to give up two players and a first-round pick to get him, so this wasn't as low-risk as some of the others on this list.

But Morris became mostly a model citizen with the Wizards. He beat his court case and improved his numbers across the board, averaging 12.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in parts of four seasons in D.C. His production, however, dropped off towards the end of his tenure, largely due to injuries, and they didn't get much for Morris when they shipped him out in February.

Trey Burke

With Wizards: 2016-17
Did it work out?: No
Why: Burke was a reclamation project because he was a failed first-round pick traded away from the Utah Jazz for a second-rounder that was, at the time of the deal, five years in the future. The Wizards banked on him still having the talent that made him a lottery pick and, maybe, a new situation would unlock his potential.

Burke never found his niche in his one season with the Wizards. They played him too much at point guard when he really probably should have been off the ball, perhaps with Tomas Satoransky running the offense. Burke floundered with the Wizards, but has found new life since leaving, most notably with the New York Knicks.

Brandon Jennings

With Wizards: 2017
Did it work out?: Sort of
Why: Jennings signed with the Wizards as a free agent in March 2017 as the team was gearing up for the playoffs and needed a back-up for John Wall. Jennings had been out of work after getting cut loose by the Knicks months earlier. He was two years removed from tearing his Achilles and still hadn't returned to form.

Jennings served a purpose for the Wizards and made some big shots in the playoffs. So, for that, his signing worked out. But after leaving the Wizards, he played just 14 more NBA games before he was out of the league. 

Jodie Meeks

With Wizards: 2017-18
Did it work out?: No
Why: Meeks had played 39 total games the previous two years due to injuries when he signed with the Wizards in the summer of 2017. They needed a back-up shooting guard behind Bradley Beal, and Meeks had the potential to fit the bill. It was a low-risk, potentially high-reward move.

But it just didn't work out. Meeks stayed healthy during the 2017-18 season but couldn't make shots. And then, the day before the first round of the playoffs began, he received a 25-game suspension due to a failed drug test. It set the course for his exit, which came that October in a trade with the Bucks. Meeks didn't work out in Washington, but he did catch on with the Raptors and won a championship ring this past June.

Mike Scott

With Wizards: 2017-18
Did it work out?: Yes
Why: Scott signed a one-year free agent deal with the Wizards in the summer of 2017 as his NBA career sat on the edge of being over. He had played just 18 games the previous year due to injuries and was fresh off beating a very serious drug charge in the state of Georgia.

The Wizards hoped he could a capable back-up to Morris, but he ended up providing much more than that. He was arguably their best bench player in a year they made the playoffs, while enjoying the most efficient season of his career. Scott then left in free agency to get a hefty raise and has since landed in Philly, where he has become a super fan favorite. His career is in excellent shape now, and much of it is because he hit the reset button in Washington.

Dwight Howard

With Wizards: 2018-19
Did it work out?: No
Why: Howard came to the Wizards as a bargain after being cast off by two teams. The Hornets traded him to the Nets, who promptly bought out his hefty salary. At the time, it wasn't about injuries. It was about his perceived effect on locker room chemistry.

The Wizards had no issues with him in that regard because he wasn't around for basically the entire season he spent in D.C. That's because he came to training camp with what later proved to be a significant back injury. He needed surgery in late November that ultimately ended his season. And he had to take a non-guaranteed contract from the Lakers this summer just to stay in the league. If he could have stayed healthy, perhaps it would have worked out for the Wizards. It just didn't go nearly as planned.

Jabari Parker

With Wizards: 2019
Did it work out?: Sort of
Why: Parker had major injuries in his past, including two famous ACL tears, but he was damaged goods when he came to Washington, mostly because of how poorly things went in Chicago. He didn't play well, became unhappy and had a public spat with his head coach

Parker's time with the Wizards was too brief to be hailed as a success. And the fact he left in free agency (like Bobby Portis) after the Wizards gave up Otto Porter Jr. to get him does not reflect well on the trade. Parker, though, played better with the Wizards than he did with the Bulls, so it wasn't a complete failure either.


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Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Any Wizards fans looking to watch professional basketball over the summer should circle July 11 on their calendar.

Former Wizards star Gilbert Arenas returns to Capital One Arena on that Saturday, as part of the Enemies of the BIG3.

The BIG3 announced their schedule for the 2020 schedule on Wednesday, and all 12 teams will play in Washington, D.C. during the third week of the season.

Arenas, who joined the league last year as a member of the Enemies squad, did not play in the nation's capital last season. The Enemies did not make playoffs in their first season of the BIG3.

Other former Wizards players in the BIG3 include Rashard Lewis, Drew Gooden, DeShawn Stevenson, and Mike Bibby among others.

The fourth season of the BIG3 kicks off June 20 in Memphis, Tenn.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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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.