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Sources around NBA speculate on what Wizards will do with Tommy Sheppard

Sources around NBA speculate on what Wizards will do with Tommy Sheppard

LAS VEGAS -- As the Wizards move through their fourth month of searching for a long-term team president, Tommy Sheppard continues to operate the front office in the interim and, now that Summer League is nearing its end, the team's offseason is not far from being all wrapped up. Sure, there are over two months until training camp, but the draft is in the past, free agency has dwindled down and they do not seem to be entertaining any sort of trade market for Bradley Beal.

With Sheppard having already done so much, and by most accounts done fairly well, an assumption by many around the NBA has developed that he will ultimately be promoted to the full-time post. A common question was asked at the Las Vegas Summer League: after all he's done, why make the switch now?

NBC Sports Washington spoke to a collection of agents, executives and national media members for their take on the situation. Some are in the know, some were just speculating. But most believe Sheppard will and should get the job.

"He's a great guy and he's getting the opportunity now after being around a long time," ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said.

Jackson went on to explain how Sheppard can be differentiated from his predecessor, Ernie Grunfeld, whom he worked under for 16 years.

"You don't know until you really know. There are places where the assistant is empowered to make moves and then there are places where the head guy minimizes the work of the assistant. I don't know [the Wizards' situation]. But what I can speak on is that Tommy Sheppard is a veteran guy that has been around and has paid his dues," he said.

Most agents and executives polled for this story spoke highly of Sheppard, even those who advocated for others who are still in the mix for the job. One former executive said Sheppard's navigation of the salary cap long-term has been particularly impressive.

There were many who believe Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver should be the other favorite. One agent who represents a player on the Wizards theorized Weaver would be the biggest splash among fans. He is from D.C., a Redskins fan and has long wanted to run the Wizards.

Weaver at least until recently has been in limbo with the Thunder, as Sam Presti has rules against members of his organization continuing to work in the building while interviewing elsewhere. So, Weaver has had to sit out many major decisions. They just traded their two best players, Russell Westbrook and Paul George, for instance. It is unclear if he was involved in those.

That factor led to some comments in Las Vegas that the Wizards should get this thing over with. Perhaps the most widespread consensus is confusion over what the team is waiting for.

One agent revealed there was at least one mystery candidate early in the process that didn't get leaked to the media. That person then got another job elsewhere.

Even an agent who represents someone who interviewed for the Wizards' opening said they think the Wizards are going to promote Sheppard. Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis, though, continues to keep things close to the vest.

As for what it would look like if the Wizards did decide to go in a different direction from Sheppard, one executive had an interesting take. They said that technically the least difficult part of the Wizards' reboot is over. 

Tearing down a roster as they have, letting free agents go, those require tough decisions but the real skill will be shown in how they build the roster back up. Finding tangible pieces to help construct a winner with John Wall's injury and contract looming will be the true test of their new-look front office.

Whatever the Wizards decide, one would think it has to be settled relatively soon. Then again, we've been saying that for months.


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Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Wizards may have found Thomas Bryant 2.0 in Moe Wagner, another steal from the Lakers

Moe Wagner has openly expressed his desire to follow the trajectory of Thomas Bryant, whom he has reunited with as a teammate now in Washington after they previously overlapped in Los Angeles.

He is a big man who can stretch the floor and plays with loads of energy. And he was a Lakers castoff now hoping to find his NBA niche in a Wizards uniform.

Through 10 games in Washington, Wagner is ahead of schedule. What he did on Friday night in Minnesota was something Bryant didn't do until months into last season, and technically it was much rarer than that.

Wagner became the first player to put up 30 points and 15 rebounds off the bench since Yao Ming in 2002 and the first in Wizards/Bullets franchise history since Cliff Robinson in 1985. No NBA player had ever dropped 30 points with 15 boards and hit four threes off the bench before in NBA history.

Wagner did this, mind you, against Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the best centers in the league. And Wagner did it all in only 25 minutes as he battled through foul trouble to make 13-of-15 shots overall and shoot a perfect 4-for-4 from three. 

He had his moments on the defensive end as well. While Towns lit up the Wizards for 25 points in the first half and for 36 in the game, 19 of those came in the second quarter when Wagner had to take a seat because of his fouls. 

Wagner's defensive style isn't pretty. Without the length or instincts to block shots, he has to scrap his way to getting stops. He uses his fouls and has a knack for drawing them.

Wagner took three charges in Friday's game and now has 10 on the season, which leads the NBA. Last year, Bradley Beal and Jeff Green led the Wizards with 12 for the entire year.

Charges generally aren't utilized in the NBA because they are very difficult to achieve. Last season, the Dallas Mavericks led the entire league with 0.84 per game. Though Wagner is averaging one per game himself this year, that pace will be difficult to sustain. Last season, Ersan Ilyasove led the league with 0.73 charges drawn per game and DeMarcus Cousins was No. 1 with 0.5 per game the year before. 

But there are players for whom charges are a defensive weapon. Ilyasova and Cousins are always near the top of the league in the category and so is Blake Griffin. Shane Battier might be the most famous charge-taker of all-time. Maybe Wagner can be next.

Taking charges, though, are just one of the ways Wagner is using his energy and effort to affect games for the Wizards. After Wednesday's win over the Timberwolves, he is second on the Wizards in deflections, second in contested shots and second in screen assists; all hustle stats. And his net rating is best on the team and fourth-highest in the NBA. 

Wagner is so far proving to be a diamond in the rough, just like Bryant was last year. Keep in mind the Wizards got him in a salary-dump trade from the Lakers that also gave them Isaac Bonga and a second-round pick. All the Wizards gave up was cash considerations, which they used to be famous for coveting.

All of this makes it fair to wonder if the Wizards can do it again. They got Bryant from the Lakers and then Wagner.

So, who is the back-up center currently on L.A. they can poach next summer?

Well, technically that would be either Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee, so maybe not. But the Wizards already fooled the Lakers once and it looks like they did it again.

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Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal passes Gilbert Arenas and John Wall for most 40-point, 10-assist games in team history

Bradley Beal led the Wizards to their third win of the season Friday night with a brilliant 44-point, 10-assist performance against the Timberwolves. 

It was the third time in his career scoring 40 points and dishing out 10 assists, which is now a Wizards franchise record. Beal passed Gilbert Arenas (2) and John Wall (2) to become the outright leader in this high-profile category.

The other two instances where Beal went 40-and-10 were last season against Toronto (43 points, 15 assists) and in 2018 at the Suns (40 points, 15 assists). 

This wasn't the only impressive statistical feat Beal accomplished on Friday. He recorded his third 40-point game of the season while shooting over 60 percent, something only four other players have done so far in 2019-20.

Beal is now averaging 29.7 points, 6.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds on the year. He's clearly on his way to another All-Star game selection, and if he keeps up this level of production he'll earn himself his first All-NBA selection and perhaps a place in the MVP discussion. 

Even though the Wizards are in the midst of a rebuild and have had their fair share of frustrating moments, but at this point, Beal is must-see television.