Coming off a tough season, which resulted in a 32-50 record, the Washington Wizards knew change was on the horizon. And in the off-season, that change came and it happened in the front office. The Wizards fired longtime general manager Ernie Grunfeld and promoted Tommy Sheppard to replace him as GM.
Not only that, but the focus in the front office as a whole changed, which should have Wizards fans feeling optimistic. Here’s three reasons why that optimism should exist.
Reason Number One: Rod Thorn
The emphasis has been to bring in smart basketball minds to help accelerate the rebuild. And that’s exactly what the Wizards have done, which is definitely refreshing. The biggest basketball mind Sheppard and the Wizards brought in is former general manager and Hall of Famer, Rod Thorn, who will be the senior advisor of the franchise.
Thorn has proven to have a superb basketball mind, selecting arguably the greatest basketball player ever in Michael Jordan in 1984. Not only that, he’s also proven to help a franchise in the trade department. Thorn helped revitalize the then New Jersey Nets franchise, shipping Stephon Marbury to the Phoenix Suns to acquire Jason Kidd, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
The senior advisor role isn’t a new one for Thorn, as he served in a similar role for the Milwaukee Bucks. When he joined the Bucks as an advisor in 2015, he helped Milwaukee GM Jon Honest put together a roster that won 60 games last season, which was head and shoulders better than the rest.
For the Wizards, having Thorn onboard is a great thing, especially since it seems they’re looking to follow a similar blueprint to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers brought Jerry West, a brilliant and arguably the greatest basketball mind, to help give their franchise a boost. And Thorn, obviously, isn’t West, but he gives the Wizards front office instant credibility and respect around the league.
Reason Number Two: Sashi Brown
Now the second reason why Wizards fans should be optimistic about the new look front office may be a bit confusing. Sashi Brown, who was brought onboard this summer to be the Chief Planning and Operations Officer of the franchise, has never been associated in the NBA ranks before.
But Brown has been involved with rebuilding sports franchises, most notably with the Cleveland Browns. With the Wizards in rebuilding mode, he’s not a bad option to help get the franchise back on track.
He helped make moves that have the Browns on track to do special things, and he could do the same for a Wizards franchise that needs it. It’s no doubt a gamble bringing Brown in, but there are certain executives who are better suited to save a franchise from sinking, rather than building or adding pieces to a potential contender.
Reason Number Three: A Sense Of Direction
Of all of the reasons why optimism should exist around the Wizards front office, this one is the most important one. The franchise knows a rebuild is the right direction to go. It’s smart because unlike some franchises in the NBA, they aren’t going to be caught in between.
For example, teams like the Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Detroit Pistons (to name a few) don’t fully know what they’re going to do. The Wizards understand that they can’t go all in to win and rebuild simultaneously, which the teams above have done. They have to rebuild and bring in brilliant basketball minds, which has been done.
Also, getting Bradley Beal’s contract extension done a few weeks ago is huge. That transaction alone gives Wizards fans a reason to be optimistic, knowing Beal will be in D.C. for years to come. Every Wizards fan knows this season is essentially about the development of the young players. The development of Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr, and Rui Hachimura are vital for the Wizards franchise moving forward.
No doubt, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has made his share of errors, but Thorn has built teams before. So having him next to Sheppard is perhaps his biggest move Leonsis has ever made. And it’s the first time in a long time that fans can take a step back, knowing the franchise is in much better hands now.