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Working for Ernie Grunfeld shouldn’t be held against Wizards GM candidates

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Chicago Bulls v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Things are moving slowly in the search for the Wizards’ next general manager, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Pelicans and Suns have both filled their vacancies, and the Lakers appear to be content with Rob Pelinka running the show for the time being, so Washington can afford to be patient here. The only other team they’re competing against for executives right now is the Timberwolves.

The only candidate who is confirmed to have a formal interview for the opening at this time is Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards’ Interim President. If you find that concerning, I don’t blame you. Promoting from within worked when the Capitals relieved George McPhee and promoted Brian MacLellan, but the Capitals had a much longer track record of success under McPhee than the Wizards did under Grunfeld. Hiring Sheppard merely to follow the Capitals’ blueprint would be a mistake.

That said, if you truly want to the Wizards to be open minded, part of that includes giving Sheppard a chance to interview and make his case. Think of it this way: He has a significant head start over any other candidate in terms of assessing the team’s strengths and weaknesses. If he has solid, original ideas on how to turn things around based on what he’s dealt with from the inside, he could spur change faster than external candidates.

You might argue it’s impossible for someone to spend as much time as Sheppard has spent with Grunfeld and still be a capable team builder, but the counter to that is the other big name that has been tied to the Wizards’ search: Nuggets President Tim Connelly. If you don’t think Sheppard deserves a shot because of his ties to the old regime, then Connelly—who spent several years under Grunfeld before turning the Nuggets into one of the best teams in the West—shouldn’t be in the running either.

This will not be an easy rebuild. The Wizards aren’t at a point as an organization where someone can come in and just make basketball decisions. They have to restructure the front office from top to bottom. Washington has to be open to all ideas to turn things around, and that means at least hearing out the two candidates who understand the most about why the Wizards are where they’re at now.