Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard spoke with FortyEightMinutes.com and other local media on Thursday afternoon (via zoom), addressing a variety of topics, including the team’s offseason moves, direction, and expectations going forward.
Here are 10 takeaways from the press conference:
- Efficiency will be key to determining whether the Wizards are succeeding. When asked about early metrics that he’s looking for to determine whether this team is gelling and heading in the right direction, Sheppard explained that the team will “follow offensive and defensive efficiency closely” and it won’t all be about wins. “If we’re playing the right way, things will happen.”
- The Wizards expect to be better defensively. “The ability to compete on both ends is going to be obvious,” Sheppard explained.
- Part of Wes Unseld’s job this season will be finding ways to take pressure off of Bradley Beal. The front office added a shooting and additional playmakers this offseason, which Sheppard indicated was designed to make things easy for Beal and create an environment where the team can be more efficient.
- Without Russell Westbrook in town, Beal is taking on an even bigger role as a vocal leader. “His leadership has always been authentic,” Sheppard said while adding that Beal’s Team USA experience helped prepare him for this stage of his career.
- The former Lakers (Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) having championship experience won’t elevate them in terms of hierarchy within the team. “What’s important is what they bring forward…what you bring as a member of the Washington Wizards is all that matters,” the GM explained when asked about how they’ll factor into the leadership of the team. Interesting.
- The Wizards remain optimistic about Deni Avdija. Sheppard indicated that Avdija is 100 percent healthy, though he’ll be eased back in. Ultimately, his playing time (like many others on the team) will come down to performance. “The competition for minutes is a healthy thing.”
- Montrezl Harrell may get a bigger slice of the frontcourt minutes than expected. “When you have someone like Montrezl Harrell on the roster, he’s going to play,” Sheppard said while adding that the center’s energy is “infectious.”
- Corey Kispert has already “earned the respect” of his teammates. Sheppard indicated that the No. 15 overall pick is fitting in nicely with his more established teammates.
- The Wizards believe Rui Hachimura will experience an Olympic boost. Many NBA players who have competed in the Olympics during the summer have followed that up with strong starts to their next NBA campaign. Hachimura could be the latest example. “I think those games were fantastic for him…the experience was tremendous for him. Moving forward, those games can only help him,” Sheppard said.
- This is not going to be a lackadaisical training camp for the Wizards. Sheppard indicated that Wes Unseld Jr. wants to get some two-a-days in over the next few weeks and how the Wizards’ preseason games are spread out, the team should be able to get some hard practices in.
You can find all of FortyEightMinutes’ Washington Coverage on our Wizards’ Team page