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Wizards GM says Bradley Beal has not requested a trade on eve of NBA draft

The Wizards plan to offer Bradley Beal a contract extension in October. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
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General Manager Tommy Sheppard looked into the camera Wednesday and tried to assuage the fears of many Washington Wizards fans.

No, Bradley Beal has not requested a trade. Yes, Sheppard, Beal and the organization are in a good place.

The process of communication with Bradley is the same as, for me, as it’s always been,” Sheppard said with a smile during a video interview with the media. “We call each other. I was with him in Vegas … and we had a great time. Caught up. Talked about our coaching staff.

“Everything else, to me, the outside noise is just noise. I don't comment on rumors or anything. I just know whenever I pick up the phone, we have a conversation. I give him updates, kind of what we were thinking.”

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Beal’s status has been the biggest question mark for the Wizards as Thursday’s NBA draft approaches. The three-time all-star is entering a contract year and can become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The last thing the organization wants to do is lose him without any compensation, and Beal declined to detail his thoughts when the season ended in early June.

“We’re not even going to think about that or even talk about it right now,” Beal said at the time. “The biggest thing for me is we battled the whole year. We didn’t start off the year the way we wanted to. It was frustrating all around for everybody. I was frustrated at times. But I’m very optimistic and persevered through a lot of adversity, and I think we did that as a team.”

That uncertainty led to reports Beal could request a trade before the draft to maximize his options.

Sheppard said the request never came and the organization is prepared to offer an extension in October, the soonest it can do so.

“What we’ve got to do is continue to push to get better and show value,” Sheppard said. “Show that we’ve gotten better across the board. I don’t know how to say it any more strong than that. An extension is available in October. That’s something that’ll be there the moment it’s available.

“There's no pressure on Bradley other than I just want to make sure we respect the data that's available, that it's there. That's what we did the last time when we did the extension that no one thought we could do.”

Things can change fast, however, and Sheppard traded John Wall in December, a week after publicly stating there were no plans to do so.

“We’ve always said you want to prepare for the big moment and be ready for the big moment,” Sheppard said. “And you’ll know when that moment comes because people will be calling you about it. We don’t go intending to trade anybody on our roster. But when those moments present themselves in the last two years, I think we’ve shown we’re not shy to do anything that we think makes the Wizards better.”

The first step was hiring Wes Unseld Jr. two weeks ago to replace Scott Brooks following another first-round playoff exit. The draft is Thursday, and the Wizards hold the No. 15 pick with a top-heavy group of prospects. Then free agency is a week away with the negotiating period beginning Aug. 2 and the signing period Aug. 6.

Wes Unseld Jr. didn’t get the Wizards job because of who his dad is. He grinded for 24 years.

Sheppard said he and Unseld have been on the same page about getting a lot more athletic and more versatile. The team clearly needs to improve defensively after giving up the most points per game in the league last season. Shooting and talent on the wings also proved to be a weakness.

At No. 15, the scenarios are vast for the Wizards. This isn’t a draft in which the lottery is fairly clear and the next tier of players is clearly identified. A combination of Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State) Jalen Green (G League Ignite), Evan Mobley (USC) and Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga) as the top four seems to be as close to a certainty as there is for the 2021 draft.

A lot can happen, and the Wizards have been linked to several players, with Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert being a common one. Sheppard says he is taking a best-player-available approach, but even that could mean anything from an older prospect who can get in the rotation immediately to a younger project who could be years away from contributing. He added that there are more older players predicted to be first-rounders this year because the coronavirus pandemic allowed players to take advantage of an additional year in college, which increased the depth for the draft.

The Wizards don’t hold a second-round pick, but Sheppard said they would like to add one if possible.

“I’m not anywhere close to making a decision right now,” Sheppard said. “We still have a lot of different things that we’re looking at, and that’s the way it always works. You prepare for the draft all year, and you still get down to the last day. And we owe it to the franchise, we owe it to the Wizards to certainly run out every single possibility. And there’s still quite a bit of quite a few of those out there.”

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Wizards’ hire of Wes Unseld Jr. brings a forward thinker to a team spinning its wheels

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