Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard, speaking to reporters last week, shared a bit of a “dad” joke — he is a father of seven, after all. Sheppard noted dryly that maybe it’s time basketball rechristened the point guard position, updating to something more applicable to the modern game — like “points guard.”
“A lot of guards now are looking to score first,” Sheppard said.
OK, so maybe the zinger needs some work, but if you’re tempted to tell Sheppard to stick to his day job, know this: Sheppard’s day job actually involves finding the Wizards a new point guard this offseason.
In a crucial offseason for Washington, one of Sheppard’s biggest priorities is landing a backcourt partner who can play next to star Bradley Beal — that is, if Beal re-signs this summer, as expected.
The help-wanted sign has been out since Washington traded Spencer Dinwiddie in February as Sheppard punted on the experiment just months into a three-year, $54 million contract for Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie, for those who don’t recall, was the Wizards’ intended replacement for Russell Westbrook. The Wizards acquired the former Brooklyn Net in the deal that sent Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers last year. But Dinwiddie ultimately played just 44 games for Washington, proving to be an awkward fit with Beal among other issues.
To close the season, the Wizards relied on Ish Smith, Tomas Satoransky and occasionally Raul Neto to run the offense. But Sheppard knows none of those players are long-term solutions, putting point guard near the top of the list of holes to fill.
“The opportunity to look at a lot of point guards wasn’t my intention this year,” Sheppard said. “We thought we had, starting out the season, this was the direction we were going to go (with Dinwiddie), but life happens and you pivot.”
Sheppard called himself a traditionalist: He said he likes point guards who can set the offense, get everyone involved and move the ball. The executive added he would also like Washington’s next point guard to be able to contain the dribble on defense and prevent his matchup from getting to the paint — areas the team struggled in over the last few years.
Washington’s last few point guards haven’t exactly fit that vision. Before Dinwiddie — more of a scoring type — Washington had John Wall and Westbrook. Both could set up their teammates with precise passing, but they were more than comfortable taking a game over on the offensive end. Neither player is known for their defense, either, though Wall made an All-Defense team in 2014-15.
So who could fill the void for Washington? Ironically, Wall and Westbrook have both been floated as possible options because of their respective situations. Westbrook is coming off a disastrous stint with the Lakers and will likely be traded, while Wall did not suit up at all last season for the Houston Rockets as the two sides could not agree on a role for him. Westbrook and Wall each have player options for $47 million that will be picked up, but both could possibly become eventual buyout candidates.
The Athletic reported in March that Wall “would welcome a return” to the Wizard, which is something he discussed with people close to him.
The bigger question, of course, is whether the Wizards would be as open to the idea. Remember, Washington granted Wall’s trade demand prior to moving him for Westbrook and was reportedly fed up with him after a video emerged of the point guard throwing up gang signs at a party months earlier. There could also be skepticism about whether Wall would truly accept a lesser role this time around with Beal, Kristpas Porizingis and Kyle Kuzma as the team’s main scoring options.
If reunions are off the table, that leaves the Wizards to explore the draft, free agency or the trade market. Sheppard told The Team 980 that he doesn’t expect a rookie point guard to start for Washington next season, which makes drafting one in the lottery perhaps less likely.
This year’s free-agent class has some notable veterans like Ricky Rubio and Dennis Schröder, though the Wizards will already be against the cap when factoring in Beal’s new contract and other existing deals like Porzingis’ max salary. If Washington does want to spend in free agency, it will likely have its full non-taxpayer midlevel exception available that’s worth around $10.3 million.
As for trades, it’s unclear what veteran might be available on the market. The Pacers are rebuilding, so perhaps former Virginia standout Malcolm Brogdon could be had. But in order to do so, the Wizards would likely have to give up some of their young talent like Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura — something they’ve been against doing so far.
“We’re going to exhaust every avenue to help ourselves with that position,” Sheppard said.