The Washington Wizards have an almost all-new front office entering the 2019-20 season. The team announced a number of hires on Monday, including ex-Browns GM Sashi Brown and former Georgetown coach John Thomspon III joining the front office, and the one holdover is former assistant GM turned interim GM now turned full-time GM Tommy Sheppard.
The Sheppard promotion wasn’t a total surprise, given that he’s been running the show since before the draft and through free agency. Without a big name to come in and take over, Ted Leonsis seems to have decided to give Sheppard the keys after his summer test drive apparently yielded satisfactory results.
Sheppard worked to retool the Wizards roster a bit, one that is expected to live near the bottom of the East this season. With John Wall out indefinitely with an Achilles injury and Bradley Beal as the lone All-Star on the roster, Sheppard’s focus was on bringing in guys that can shape the Wizards culture first and shipping out guys who won’t help in that regard.
Dwight Howard was among those sent out, as he was dealt to the Grizzlies for C.J. Miles in a move that helped Memphis save $3 million after they used their cap space to take on big salaries this summer. That wasn’t simply a cap move, but, as has long been the story of Dwight’s career, it was a move executed in an effort to boost the character of the Wizards locker room, something confirmed by Sheppard in a recent story by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Leonsis saw the character of his roster start to evolve. Together, Sheppard and Leonsis engaged every day on John Wall’s Achilles rehabilitation in Florida, watching tape of his work, talking to the franchise point guard and his trainers constantly. They had Bradley Beal in the draft room, talking through the kind of character changes on the roster that would complement the All-Star guard. They moved Dwight Howard out of the organization. (“The quickest trade I’ve ever done in my life,” Sheppard said.)
It’s the third time in as many years Howard has been traded for minimal to negative on-court return in an effort to simply rid a locker room and/or cap sheet of his presence. He was dealt from Atlanta to Charlotte for Miles Plumlee (on arguably a worse, longer contract), Marco Belinelli (also on a hefty deal), and a pick swap to the Hornets just for taking him on. That was new Hawks GM Travis Schlenk’s first move as he, not unlike Sheppard, looked to reset the culture of the locker room in Atlanta.
Charlotte flipped him to Brooklyn a year later for, again, a longer, worse deal in Timofey Mozgov and two second rounders, with the Nets waiving him and Washington ultimately signing him. Howard now has been part of his third such trade in as many years, passing through, technically, his fifth roster, potentially putting a sad, bizarre end to what has been (almost assuredly) a Hall of Fame career.