A Pleasant Surprise: Tommy Sheppard Strikes Gold
Davis Bertans arrived on the Wizards’ roster with little more than an announcement that scrolls along the stale ticker at the bottom of ESPN these days. He may not have even had that. He was a foreign player, heading from the Spurs franchise to the… Wizards. Years and years of experience would have told any sane Wizards fan that the Spurs were somehow pulling one over on us. The Wizards haven’t exactly had the best track record scouting international players, even if Bertans had put plenty on film during his time in the NBA.
Regardless, the big media heads were not impressed by the move at the time. Even diehard fans remained skeptical. Skeptical, that is until that first shot went in. It doesn’t take a wizard (sorry, that’s the worst pun ever) to see how great of a shooter Bertans is. He makes set shots, shots off screens, shots off-balance, and shots off the dribble with an alarmingly quick release.
The numbers don’t lie either. He is shooting 45% from deep, leads the league in catch & shoot 3PM with 54 (for reference, 3pt champ Joe Harris has 48). He is on pace to make 300 3pt shots this season, which only Steph and Harden have done – all with largely career backup point guards running the show and getting him shots.
Bertans has been the stretch 4 that Wizards fans have been praying for since John Wall arrived. The Wizards and Grunfeld have tried and failed to fill this position and find a mainstay to help stretch the floor for Wall and take some of the attention away from Beal. Kris Humphries and Jason Smith headline the names we have tried to plug into that role. Including those two in an article about outside shooting seems unfair, even to the kid who parks himself on the 3pt line in his church ball league.
Markieff Morris and Bobby Portis were decent options while they were in DC and provided help in areas that are not Bertans’ strengths. But, they were never close to the shooting threat we needed them to be. The fact that the Wizards have been so futile at filling that spot with a shooter makes Bertans that much more exciting, especially picturing him playing alongside Wall.
The Crystal Ball is Cloudy
The sad fact is, John Wall may never suit up beside Davis Bertans. Bertans is not only making splashes from all over the court. His play has landed him in the crosshairs of several rival GMs. Particularly, those who are looking to make a deep playoff push, and may not value a late first-round draft pick the same way a rebuilding team might. Bertans is playing in the final year of his 2yr/$14million contract that he signed with the Spurs.
In acquiring him, the Wizards possess his Bird rights, which means they will be able to go over the salary cap next year if they decide to resign him. Tommy Sheppard did an amazing job acquiring assets this past Summer, but will have a tough decision when teams start to call in February.
Judging by the current market for stretch 4’s, Bertans could make upwards of $12-18mil per year. For reference, Joe Ingles and Kelly Olynyk inked deals worth around $50mil over 4 years. And just this past offseason, Bobby Portis signed a 2-year deal with the Knicks worth $31mil. If teams call offering a first-round pick for Bertans, contracts for a young first-round pick average around $4million a year over 4 years + team options.
If the Wizards are trying to put together a team around Wall and Beal for a playoff push, they should strongly consider resigning Bertans. He, along with some of the other youthful assets added this year, could be one of the missing pieces after many years of frustration. This option might also be the most appealing to Beal and Wall, who will eventually grow tired of playing Daddy Day Care in the NBA for a team looking to continually add young talent and send talented veterans packing for future assets.
However, the Wizards and Sheppard should certainly listen to all offers, and if they can add a young piece or a first-round pick they should certainly look into it, if only because Sheppard has already demonstrated an eye for talent, and rookie deals offer much more cap flexibility for a team with two near Super Max deals. The worst-case scenario is that the Wizards don’t deal Bertans and then let him walk for nothing this summer. It will certainly be something to keep an eye on. But for once, the Wizards are in the driver’s seat in this scenario. What they decide should shed light on their vision of the next few years with Wall and Beal.