Wizards GM willing to take 'big swings' to turn them into contenders

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Wizards GM willing to take 'big swings' to improve roster originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

As general manager Tommy Sheppard watched his Wizards lose in five games to the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs, he came to the same conclusion many likely did about how close they are to being title contenders. Basically, not all that close. Though they took a big step forward this season and proved they are good when healthy, they have plenty more work to do.

At his end-of-season press conference on Thursday, Sheppard spoke positively about the future while also offering a blunt assessment of the roster he has assembled over the past two offseasons since taking over the job in 2019.

"Honestly, we need to be a much better team this time next year to compete at the level we want to compete at," he said. "But I will say this, if you asked me that question this time last year, that was before we acquired Russell Westbrook, before we signed Davis Bertans back, before we brought Daniel Gafford in on a trade, before we drafted Deni [Avdija]."

Sheppard went on to say making the playoffs will be the expectation moving forward and that losing in the first round as an eight-seed is "no longer acceptable." He cited depth to withstand injuries, wing defense and shooting as key areas to shore up.

Anyone who has paid close attention to the team this season could glean that. But how they go from where they are now to becoming contenders will require some big thinking. They will not have a lot of money to spend in free agency and will pick 15th in the NBA Draft.

Add it all up and a trade (or several) seems like the most viable way for the Wizards to make a major improvement and Sheppard mentioned that on Thursday.

"We’ve gotta continue to add talent everywhere we can, and I think we’ve shown that I’m not afraid to take big swings. We’re not afraid to go out and acquire players in trades, to do whatever it takes," he said.

The stars need to align for that to happen. The right player needs to become available from the right trade partner. The Wizards would also have to pay up to get a player that would represent a "big swing."

Teams do it all the time and are often rewarded in big ways. Just look at the Sixers who just eliminated the Wizards, with Tobias Harris. Or, the Nets with James Harden or the Lakers with Anthony Davis or the Suns with Chris Paul. The list could go on and on, but you get the point.

The balance, though, is not mortgaging the future to a detrimental extent. Sheppard also mentioned how the best teams in the NBA keep a stable of young, developing players in addition to their core veterans.

Sheppard has the next few months to figure this out. But he made it very clear he thinks the Wizards need some big improvements and he's willing to take some risks to make it happen.