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On Sunday afternoon, Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard hosted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. Here are some highlights from the session, including Sheppard’s thoughts on teambuilding, John Wall’s recovery, the upcoming draft, his career path and more.
NBA_acc: What was the thought process that lead to the Rui pick, and what did you see in him that other teams missed?
Our biggest attraction to Rui is his versatility, gifted scorer, excellent shooter. Don't be surprised to play more wing in the future. He didn't play basketball until he was 14, so there wasn't a lot of wear and tear on his body during the formidable ages. His teammates love him. Rui is kind of where the game is going, the ability to guard multiple positions, score from all over the floor. He's shot over 40% from 3-point since the All-Star break, and that part of his game must expand. We love his character and his background.
NBA_acc: How do you expect Brooks to respond to the challenge of coaching a team with higher expectations?
With John's return next year, we have a higher expectation. We've said from day one this year was truly going to be about player development - and we're reaching those goals. We want to win as many games as possible, but more importantly, develop and watch our talent increase. We have seven players 22 and younger, 10 new roster players this year and it's critical that they all develop.
namrog99: How do GMs talk with each other about trades etc.? I only play NBA 2K so I just assume there's some direct line between GMs that's very easily accessible.
We all have each other's phone numbers and emails. We see each other constantly. Mainly phone calls - I try to call five guys a day. Some of my biggest network is coaches.
The_Polish_Kielbasa: Hi Tommy. I know Marcin Gortat was always praising you and he even invited you for his camp. How you remember Poland, did you like our country? Also, can we get a Gortat story? Best wishes from Poland!
It was great to see him the other night. We text back and forth all the time - it was awesome to have Marcin back home. The stories we can't tell from Polish Heritage Night are the best ones, but...When Marcin was a free agent, I went to Poland to recruit him to come to the Wizards. I gave him my cell phone, and I called John Wall and Bradley Beal. He got off the phone with them and Marcin said, "Ok, I'm in." It was great how much those players meant to him.
ap_2975: Aside from trying to re-sign Bertans, what are some other off-season plans? Are you happy with the current direction of the team and the players? Is Scotty Brooks the coach for the foreseeable future? (Like next 3-4 years even after his contract is up).
I think this season was a challenge without John Wall, from training camp on we knew that everyone would be evaluated on player development. I think the staff's done a good job of developing our talent and it will translate to the future. Scotty Brooks dusted off the blueprint he had to use in OKC with all of those younger players. He instilled the work ethic and held players accountable. We have seven players 22 years and younger and they've all shown improvement and it will be exciting to watch in the future.
FriendlyCraig: What is the most magical moment in your career with the Wizards?
Pretty tough to top the night when John hit the game-winner in Game 6. Magical moment was followed by the worst memory - losing Game 7 - that was very difficult.
ScaryBullfrog: I've been really impressed with a lot of the moves you've made so far since you took over as GM, especially with regards to creating value out of pretty much nothing by sliding in as the third team in three team trades, such as in the Bertans, Robinson, and Bonga/Wagner trades. How are you able to find these opportunities, and moving forward is the goal still to find these types of deals?
You're just in constant communication with the 29 other teams. In the draft, but particularly in the free agency, you must know what every team's goals are and see if there's opportunities. Having trade exceptions and draft rights to players goes a long way to jump in deals.
SlimYancy: Love what's going on with the team right now. Have you considered Troy Brown at PG long term? Additionally are you a fan of stand-up comedy at all?
Troy is somebody we're comfortable with the ball and off the ball. The most important thing for Troy is to get minutes wherever he can, whether it be at the 1, 2, or 3. I'm a huge fan of stand-up comedy - goes back to Richard Pryor and love Dave Chappelle.
flint-jack: Hi Tommy, thank you for doing this. I'm a fan from Europe and just wanted to say thank you for improving the culture and bringing some change. What is the most important characteristic you are looking for when you evaluate if a player is suitable for this team?
High-character, data-driven. Ultra-competitive players who have demonstrated work ethic and love of the game.
Early-Weather: What is your favorite pair of socks?
They have Dr. J on them - Stance socks. My new favorite pair will be the Latvian Laser socks on March 21.
BestPGJohnWall: Many people think that the answer at center for the Wizards is not currently on the roster. How do you plan to find a center, hopefully one who is good defensively and rebounding? Is it through the draft, trades, or do you believe that one of our bigs on the roster can be the future center?
If you look at the way the game is played, it's harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position. We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We're pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks.
Brofessor101: What was your career growth like? I’m interested in how you got to where you are. I hope to accomplish 10% of what you have.
When I finished playing football at New Mexico State, I worked in their athletic department. I got an opportunity after I graduated to work at UNLV, which was the biggest break of my career since I got a chance to work with Jerry Tarkanian and Tim Grgurich as well as Rollie Massimino and Jay Wright. Then I went to the Denver Nuggets for nine years all the while I was working for the U.S. Olympic Committee and worked three Olympic games, four World Championships, Pan-American Games, three Olympic festivals. These all gave me a tremendous experience to work with elite athletes and coaches. After that, I came to the Wizards and have been here 17th season.
Uberlox: Hi Tommy, love how the culture has improving this year. What do you think of John Wall's recovery process so far?
We're extremely pleased with John's condition right now, his participation throughout the rehab process has been fantastic. I've never seen him this motivated to make a full recovery. We see John scrimmage with the Go-Go, we see him at practice with the Wizards. And while the rust is still there, there's plenty of signs that point to a full recovery.
Frognaros: Have we already started our draft board? If so, what are we gunning for this year in the draft?
Yes, we have. We've had eyes on every game, every coast, every conference, every country, not just for the draft, but for exhibit 10s, G League, etc. Best overall player - certainly we have some needs at the wing for depth. The biggest thing we need is more talent and that's what we're looking to add. We have Chicago's second round pick this year as well, which is looking like a higher pick than expected.
Early-Weather: Who are the draft selections on the board that interest you as potential fits for this team next year? If loathe to list names, what positions do you see need at?
I cannot mention names, but the draft is deeper this year than people realize.
MPS44: Based on your love of Trade Exceptions do you think your nickname should be Trade Exception Tommy? I was a huge fan of your creation of the Tomas Satoransky exception this summer, the Isaiah Thomas and the Jordan McRae exceptions this deadline. Can’t wait to see how you use it.
We don't need nicknames, but we've taken advantage of trade exceptions over the years. We have a great staff - Brett Greenberg, Ben Eidelberg, etc. who do a great job of giving us every opportunity for options to add talent.
The entire AMA session can be viewed HERE.
At the conclusion of the AMA, Sheppard offered “Tickets on Tommy” to fans who participated in the session, providing complimentary tickets for Tuesday’s game against the Knicks. Fans who submitted a ticket form during yesterday’s AMA will receive an update on Monday.