The Washington Wizards are set to embark on a new era but really it all began towards the tail end of last season. After the team dismissed longtime team president Ernie Grunfeld, team owner Ted Leonsis knew it was finally time for someone else to call the shots. At the time, assistant Tommy Sheppard was to assume the role of interim team president. As we’ve learned with Leonsis striking out on other candidates for the vacant spot, Sheppard’s interim tag turned out to be a live-action audition to become the newest general manager. Come mid-July the team finally made it official in more ways than one.
To keep up with today’s evolving NBA, Leonsis created Monumental Basketball that is a unique fraternity within Monumental Sports and Entertainment serving the Wizards, the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, the G-League’s Capital City Go-Go and Wizards District Gaming.
“We have formed a new leadership team with a forward-thinking structure to adapt to the ‘new NBA’ that requires every possible strategic advantage to compete and win,” Leonsis noted in a press release.
“We are building a leadership brain trust with deep Wizards/NBA experience and with sports professionals from inside and outside the NBA to challenge our thinking and adapt to an ever-increasing competitive environment.”
Monumental Basketball includes a roster of executives including Sahsi Brown, Daniel Medina, John Thompson III, Sashia Jones, Brett Greenberg, Johnny Rogers, Mark Simpson, Antawan Jamison, Laron Profit, and John Carideo. Sheppard’s responsibilities in particular will help with strategy, analytics, player personnel, as well as scouting and coaching with the Wizards, Go-Go and District Gaming.
Sheppard has slowly constructed this new Wizards roster by cleaning up the books, at least as much as possible. Gone are Tomas Satoransky, Dwight Howard, Jabari Parker, and Bobby Portis. Newcomers include CJ Miles, Ish Smith, and Isaiah Thomas.
The Wizards also had a successful draft selecting Rui Hachimura. Hailing from Japan, Hachimura has a chance to become a very good player in Washington and he already is within his home country. The Gonzaga product averaged 19.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game and on a team looking for a strong center, he presents a case to be a mainstay in the frontcourt if he continues to develop.
But the biggest thing I saw Sheppard do this offseason wasn’t the offer sheet that was presented to Bradley Beal for a max extension. It was when the Wizards put themselves in the middle of the Anthony Davis trade. As you may recall, AD wanted out of New Orleans and that didn’t change after they won the Zion sweepstakes.
The Wizards sent $1.1 million to the Pelicans to acquire Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jemmario Jones as well as a 2022 second-rounder. On the surface, it looked like it was going to help out the Lakers. In the grand scheme of things though, it’ll give Wagner an opportunity. The Wizards were high on him in last year’s draft but selected Troy Brown Jr. instead.
These moves to acquire cheaper players won’t help the Wizards make a statement in a wide-open Eastern Conference but it could set them up for better offseasons ahead now that they finally made that dramatic front-office change.