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Tommy Sheppard must choose between Bradley Beal or Scott Brooks in his cultural reboot

Sheppard might have to choose between Brooks and Beal.

2019 Washington Wizards Draft Press Conference Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The best thing about each Washington Wizards loss is waking up the next day to read the analysis by our data guru Kevin Broom. He dissects these losses in a professional fashion that’s rare to find. Kevin cuts to the chase and gives you the true story between the lines of the box score.

No matter how you dissect these losses, one thing stands out to me: the team’s energy. For a third season in a row, the Wizards lack the energy and enthusiasm you would expect from pro hoopers who enjoy playing together.

Each season has its own story, and this year’s iteration of the Wizards surely feels different from the “Washington U.” bunch of last year, or Ernie Grunfeld’s patchwork of expiring contracts, mercenaries and journeymen the prior year. Yet for some strange reason, the energy is once again not there.

While it seems that for the first time in a good number of years the front-office has done it’s homework, it sure feels as if the coaching staff hasn’t.

Jason Patt, writing for Blog A Bull, SB Nation’s Chicago Bulls blog summed it up,

I’m really curious how much longer Scott Brooks will be coaching that team, because they were lethargic and sloppy for most of the night in a game they were favored rather heavily in. To essentially get run off the floor by the Bulls on their home court to drop to 0-4 is a brutal look.

In other words: the Wizards were “favored rather heavily” thanks to the roster moves by the front office, and despite that managed to get “run off the floor.”

Tommy Sheppard has methodically structured the roster to increase locker room cohesiveness. Analyzing each of his transactions, whether it be a trade, a free agent signing, a draft pick, or a waiver claim, one pattern is clear: Sheppard sometimes overspends and sometimes compromises on talent (and sometimes gets true bargains on both fronts), but in each move he strives to increase the teams’ character, whatever that elusive concept means.

His logic is commendable: to make D.C. attractive to free agents they have to first develop a desirable workplace. Sheppard shocked everybody by successfully re-signing Bradley Beal, one of the most coveted players in the league, to an extension. He then bingoed again by re-signing Davis Bertans to a reasonable long-term contract in free agency after acquiring him in the previous offseason from San Antonio for essentially free. And he signed Thomas Bryant to a team-friendly three-year deal, in 2019.

Then came the biggest shocker, when Sheppard managed to maneuver out of of the albatross that was John Wall’s supermax contract. Again, I’m not arguing for one second that on the court Russell Westbrook is an upgrade over John Wall. But the trade was in line with Sheppard’s philosophy and provided the franchise with the possibility to turn the page, and give Beal the keys to the team, which was the direction they were already headed.

And so while the front-office has provided a clear and systematic direction, we have seen nothing of the sort coming the coaching staff.

If it was clear that the Wizards’ biggest problem in 2018-19 was a lack of energy and accountability on defense, and in 2019-20 it was rebounding, lack of talent, and fundamentals on defense, we have seen those same exact issues in the first four games of the present season. Since Kevin has broken down these issues at length, I won’t dwell on them.

Sheppard now has to make his next big decision. And while it is well known that Brooks and Sheppard are close — they even share the same agent — Sheppard has to make a business decision with the best interests of the franchise in mind. As Beal said,

So, in essence, Sheppard’s next big decision, that might come very soon, could be choosing between keeping Brooks or Beal.