Amid season on hold, Wizards planning for the future

Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard smiles at an NBA basketball press conference, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

In these uncertain times, it’s important to always be prepared.

The power was out in Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard’s house, but that didn’t stop our interview. Sheppard borrowed his daughter’s iPad. Much like Sheppard himself, the device was fully charged and ready.

It’s how we roll in April 2020, and with a backup plan for an interview that was supposed to be on a laptop, Sheppard was able to talk about his plans going forward for the Wizards.

The plan is still to, somehow, finish the NBA season, but there is no way for Sheppard to predict how or when that will happen.

It’s clear that once the door does open on NBA free agency, the Wizards will start from within. Current Wizards Davis Bertans and Shabazz Napier are set to become free agents, and Sheppard wants to re-sign them.

“I think with Napier and Bertans, when we acquired them not as rentals, we acquired them to stay here,” Sheppard said. “I think the players that we acquired, they’re here to show that they can be here for the future. With Davis and Shabazz, they showed enough to us that certainly we would love to retain them. We plan to.”

Bertans has wowed Wizards fans with his three-point shooting. His 200 made three-pointers rank seventh in the NBA, and many are impressed with his ability to do so much more. There was reportedly interest from NBA teams in Bertans before the trade deadline, but Sheppard did not seriously entertain any offers.

Napier was acquired by the Wizards before the trade deadline in the deal that sent Jordan McRae to the Denver Nuggets. In 15 games with the Wizards, Napier made eight starts and averaged 12.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Napier is a two-time NCAA champion with UConn and a former first-round pick of the Miami Heat.

If the Wizards are able to keep Napier, they will have plenty of options at point guard. Ish Smith will also be back with the Wizards, and most notably, John Wall is scheduled to return next season from an Achilles injury. There are no plans to bring Wall back before next season.

“We have seen (Wall) play with a broken hand, bone spurs and something wrong with his knee, and he always plays,” Sheppard said. “He has a very high threshold of pain. We know he will try to play at 60% because he is a tough guy, but big picture, having John back solves a lot of issues. There is nothing like getting a five-time All-Star back on your roster.”

In today’s NBA, shooting is at a premium and the guards are needed in the Wizards’ desire to continue to push the pace. More and more, smaller lineups are used with players who can both score and distribute the basketball.

“We envision the Wizards having three playmakers on the floor at all times,” Sheppard said. “Bradley (Beal) has proven he is a high-usage guy that can drop six, seven assists per game. Then, adding John Wall back in the mix — one of the top three point guards in the league when healthy — and then add that to Troy Brown or whoever is on the wing, and you can attack from any place on the floor.”

There is also an NBA Draft to get ready for, and while there will not be in-person workouts of prospective players, Sheppard believes they will have all the information they need from previous scouting to make a decision.

The NBA Draft is still scheduled for June.

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