Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard put an end Wednesday to the trade rumors floating around about the future of Bradley Beal’s career in Washington, confirming that neither Beal nor his agent has asked for a trade.
Sheppard said he went to Las Vegas to watch Beal play in the U.S. basketball exhibitions against Argentina and Australia. He added that they had good conversations about the upcoming season, including the new hire of Wes Unseld Jr.
When looking for pieces to add in free agency, Sheppard said that Beal and Russell Westbrook are players some free agents want to play with.
“There’s a whole lot of free agents that would love to play with Bradley Beal, that would love to play with Russell Westbrook,” Sheppard said. “Our job is to find the best valued ones. … finding those value guys that can come in and perform, that’s an area we’ve tried to identify and bring those names forward.”
With the NBA draft on Thursday night, the Wizards are positioned in an interesting spot with the 15th pick.
They can draft a player that needs one year before playing in the rotation or take a player that needs a couple of years of development, a luxury that they didn’t have last year at No. 9, Sheppard said.
“If you go 1-25 or 1-30, I think you see a lot of older players included in that group and that’s not normal,” Sheppard said. “I think COVID certainly predicted that because people were able to return to college. It feels deeper … because they didn’t age out this year.”
Sheppard said as the Wizards have expanded their analytics department in the last two years, it’s made it easier to map out the potential picks. During that span, they’ve selected Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija. But with the COVID-19 pandemic this year, he said they’ve had to become more creative with how they assess players with fewer games played this year.
“You really have to have done your homework on the EYBL, the USA basketball tryouts, things of that nature,” Sheppard said. “There’s a lot more information available, but certainly this past season, there’s small sample sizes everywhere you turn around so you really have to have a great feel for projecting a player forward where they’re going to be in two years, three years.”
No matter who the Wizards select on Thursday night, the team wants to add athletic players to the roster.
“We just want to be a lot more athletic, a lot more versatile and I think the opportunities to do that are there either through the draft, a trade or free agency,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard noted that new coach Wes Unseld Jr. and him are on the same page of what kind of players they want to fill their roster with for the upcoming season. He added that they’re not specifically looking for a player that is a defensive specialist, but can be coached to play defense.
“If you don’t tolerate short cuts, if you demand a certain level of participation on the defensive end, it makes it a lot more smooth,” Sheppard said.
He added that Unseld was able to do that as an assistant in Denver last season, leading them to a top-10 defensive team in the league.
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