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Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

Why the Wizards chose Tommy Sheppard as their new general manager

The process took nearly four months, yet the Wizards ultimately didn't look far for their new general manager, as the team is removing the interim tag from Tommy Sheppard. The longtime NBA executive will now finally get a chance to run his own operation.

Sheppard may not have been the first choice among fans initially when it was announced he would fill in for Ernie Grunfeld, who was dismissed from his post as team president on April 2, but over the past few months he has acclimated himself well, showing in many ways he is prepared to lead a team as the top person in charge. He cleaned up the Wizards' salary cap situation as best he could, giving them some newfound financial flexibility beyond next season.

Sheppard did that while flooding the roster with young, cheap and high-upside players. And he did so by making some tough decisions, ones that helped demonstrate he can provide an organizational reset despite his role in the previous regime. 

Sheppard allowed Tomas Satoransky to walk in free agency despite being central in bringing him to the Wizards, first by scouting him overseas and then by convincing him to join the NBA ranks. He let Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker leave even though he was part of the braintrust that traded for them. And he traded Dwight Howard, again despite playing a role in bringing him to Washington.

Sheppard has operated with impartiality when the team needed him to. What he has done this offseason looks a lot like it probably would have if the Wizards had hired someone from the outside.

How Sheppard navigated the Wizards through the draft and free agency was central in why managing partner Ted Leonsis decided to elevate him to the long-term post. The last several weeks were treated as a "trial run," according to a person familiar with the process.

Sheppard worked closely with the team's ownership group, giving them written proposals for his plans that addressed goals, budget and contingencies. It was a collaborative effort to make the Wizards' roster younger, cheaper and harder working. They also set out to add more international players and accomplished that by drafting Rui Hachimura and by trading for Davis Bertans, Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga.

Sheppard impressed Leonsis especially during the effort to re-sign Thomas Bryant. Bryant has become a favorite of Leonsis' for his consistent effort, character and enthusiasm. Sheppard and the Wizards were able to agree with Bryant on a new contract the night free agency began. It was quick and painless.

Sheppard himself will be signing a new contract, NBC Sports Washington was told. And there will be major changes to the organizational structure announced this coming week. In the basketball operations side, the team will heavily expand their investment in analytics, by "triple" according to a person familiar with their plans. They will also beef up their scouting department with an eye on Africa and Latin America.

Sheppard has done a nice job for the Wizards but the real work in many ways about to begin. Dismantling an NBA roster is not as difficult as building a contender. Now he has to find pieces to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal that can help the team win something of substance. 

Sheppard will have to do that within the constraints of Wall's supermax contract. And he will have to sort out Beal's future, which could take a turn later this month. 

On July 26, the Wizards can officially offer Beal a contract extension worth approximately $111 million over three years. But there is a long list of clues that suggest he will not take the offer.

How Sheppard, Beal and the Wizards handle the fallout in the event he turns them down would be a test in itself. Maybe they spin it simply as Beal betting on himself. If he makes All-NBA next season, he could make well over $200 million with a five-year supermax.

For Sheppard, the hard work is about to start. He is set to guide the Wizards into a new era, one he and the team hope can reach a higher peak than the last.

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WATCH: Rui Hachimura throws down a vicious dunk and lets the Heat know it

WATCH: Rui Hachimura throws down a vicious dunk and lets the Heat know it

Rui Hachimura is one of the more soft-spoken players on the Wizards, but you wouldn't be able to collect that from his highlight dunk Friday night in Miami. 

Early in the second quarter while the Wizards were riding the momentum from their win over Philadelphia the night before, Hachimura threw down a loud one-handed slam to give them a 12-point lead. 

Then he let out a scream to let the entire arena know what they just witnessed. 

Hachimura has struggled most of the year with finishing through contact inside. Over the last two weeks, he's had the two best games of his career against the Clippers (30 points) and Sixers (27) due in large part to the rookie playing with more physicality offensively. 

The Wizards have to like what they've seen out of Hachimura already this season, and these kinds of incremental growths are all you can really ask for from a first-round pick. 

Hachimura seemed to hit a wall two weeks ago, but he adjusted tried playing with more physicality and it's paying off for him. 

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Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

It would've been easy for the Wizards to rest on the excitement of Thursday night's win over the Sixers and phone it in against the Heat before a Friday night in Miami. 

But they didn't, and while they didn't come up with the win, the Wizards showed resolve and grit against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Here are the top takeaways from the 112-103 loss. 

Wizards forced to use their depth

Coming into the game the Wizards were already down CJ Miles, Jordan McRae and Thomas Bryant with long-term injuries, but then Ian Mahinmi was scratched so he didn't have to play a back-to-back and Isaiah Thomas was ruled out with the same calf injury that kept him on the sidelines against Philly. 

So Scott Brooks reached deep down his bench and deployed some lineup combinations he's rarely had to go with this year. Moe Wagner and Ish Smith got the start alongside Bradley Beal Isaac Bonga and Rui Hachimura while Davis Bertans, Troy Brown and Chris Chiozza were his top reserves. 

At one point, the Wizards fielding a lineup of Chiozza-Brown-Bertans-Bonga-Schofield. Per Cleaning the Glass, those five players have yet to share the court together this season. 

But the Wizards played well. They weren't flat on the second night of a back-to-back, which many would have expected coming off such a great win at home the night before, and they matched the intensity of a consistently hard-playing Heat team for most of the game. 

That's a sign of good culture, which is something the franchise has prioritized in a rebuilding year. I'd be excited to see how they handle the Clippers at home after getting their doors blown off in LA not too long ago. 

Bertans' trade value keeps growing

Davis Bertans showed out on the big stage against the Sixers Thursday and continued his hot streak from deep in Miami. He finished with 19 points, going 5-13 from three, and it's clear defenses are insanely worried about him coming off screens. 

With an expiring $7 million deal, Bertans is a prime trade target for contenders who need bench scoring and floor spacing. 

Before the year it would have been blasphemous for the Wizards to get a first-round pick for Bertans, but now? I'd be surprised if they don't get at least one for him if they wish to deal him. 

An elite uniform night

It's "City Edition" season in the NBA and the Wizards and Heat brought it Friday night. 

The Wizards went with the "Stars and Stripes" for the second night in a row, while the Heat sported another iteration of their famous "Miami Vice" jerseys. 

I move for both uniform combinations to be made permanent additions for years to come. 

Rui Hachimura vs Herro and Nunn

This game featured three of the best rookies the game has had to offer in Rui Hachimura, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Herro turned in the best game by a healthy margin with 22 points, but Hachimura proved he's at a similar level as those two standouts. 

The ninth overall pick turned in another solid line with 14 points, six rebounds and a loud dunk

Hachimura seemed to hit a wall two weeks ago but is now back to showing key improvements in every game. 

The Wizards have to be thrilled with what they've seen so far out of the rookie and it's exciting to think about his upside on both ends of the floor running alongside Beal and John Wall. 

No answers for Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo may be one of the most versatile centers in NBA history. 

He has unreal foot speed and instincts on defense that allows him to guard just about everyone on the floor, and his ball-handling on offense is unprecedented for such a young big man. 

On Friday, the Wizards' shaky paint defense had next to no answers for Adebayo, who ended up with 24 points and 13 rebounds on 10-16 shooting. 

The good news for the Wizards is there aren't many players like Adebayo in the league today, but at some point, they're going to have to figure out how to defend the paint. 

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