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Wizards, Bradley Beal


The Wizards can net Bradley Beal by committing to Tommy Sheppard first

The Washington Wizards’ most pressing question is less than two weeks away from an answer: Will Bradley Beal stay with the team?

That response will be layered with plenty of underlying ifs and buts — yet if the franchise hopes to pitch Beal into staying on a three-year, $111 million extension on July 26, they must first show some semblance of stability by committing to Tommy Sheppard in the front office.

Beal has reportedly advocated for Sheppard, who took over the front office after the firing of longtime president Ernie Grunfeld, to keep the job. Sheppard has been with the Wizards for just as long as Grunfeld had been with the team — 16 years.

He’s contributed with player evaluations, contract negotiations and operated the many tweaks and changes of the salary cap.

Sheppard’s also helped with the hiring of coaches and other staff, organized the Summer League schedule and managing the training program and the equipment that comes with it.

His experience is likely unrivaled among the few candidates left, but team owner Ted Leonsis has been hesitant to take the interim tag off his name and give him the full-fledged job. Leonsis has aimed for bigger fish looking to make a splash, inquiring about Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, former Houston Rockets executive VP of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, Boston Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren, and former New Orleans Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry.

Leonsis whiffed on all of them, as Connelly chose to remain with the Nuggets to finish the building he started, Rosas signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Zarren stayed put and Ferry was relieved of his duties and replaced after the hiring of executive VP David Griffin.

The Wizards also had a reported interest in Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, but one that was shot down by Grunfeld after incessant rumors following the Raptors’ title victory.

Meanwhile, Sheppard ran the draft and selected Rui Hachimura with the ninth pick while getting Admiral Schofield in the second round on a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Sheppard traded away Dwight Howard, re-signed center Thomas Bryant, navigated free agency, and ran the Wizards’ Summer League team — but he still doesn’t have the full-time job.

The concept of loyalty is superfluous in today’s NBA, but the concept of comfort still remains as important and substantial to NBA players as it’s always been in this era of player empowerment. Giving Sheppard the job will give Beal the stability he expects to see before making a commitment, after much uncertainty revolves around John Wall’s potential season-long injury and the scope of the future of this team after trading away Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr. last season.

Beal could opt not to sign a three-year extension and instead opt to hit free agency in 2021, but the Wizards will have to give themselves a chance to keep their homegrown talent by giving him a familiar and capable semblance of structure.

Sheppard has done just about everything that would be asked of a president of basketball operations and a general manager, he just needs the title and the money that comes with it.

Even if Beal chooses to leave, the Wizards would be best served with an experienced front office person than navigating the waters of a potential trade with a man working on rented time.