|NBA Offseason: Wizards trade Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza||06.20.12 at 3:04 pm ET|
This was a bit of a surprise. According to a report by Draft Express, and confirmed by several others including the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, the Wizards have agreed to trade Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick in the draft to the Hornets for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
First, the contract numbers: Lewis has one-year left on his albatross contract that pays him more than $23 million but he can be waived for $13.7 million, per Draft Express. Okafor is due about $14 million this season and he has an early termination option for the 2013-14 season, while Ariza will make over $7 million and has a player option for the following season at $7.2 million.
This could potentially save the Hornets up to $30 million and open up major cap space for next summer. With two first round picks and no long-term salary obligations — yet — the Hornets are well-positioned to build an entirely new team in new owner Tom Benson’s first season.
Eric Gordon is set to hit restricted free agency, but suddenly re-signing him to a large deal is less daunting minus that $20 million in contracts for Okafor and Ariza. A core of Gordon, Anthony Davis, whoever they get with the 10th pick and cap space isn’t a bad starting place.
For the Wizards, well, this is yet another step in yet another major overhaul. After years of being good with nothing to show for it, they settled into a painful rebuild around young players with no veteran experience, an approach that was criticized by Celtics coach Doc Rivers among others.
GM Ernie Grunfeld signaled the new direction when he traded Javale McGee for Nene at the deadline. Now he adds two more veterans at the cost of future cap space. If Grunfeld really wanted to clean house, he could use the amnesty provision on Andray Blatche who has been a major disappointment.
This move could also affect the draft where Washington could set their sights on Florida guard Bradley Beal with the third pick, rather than Kentucky forward Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, setting up a backcourt of Beal and John Wall to go with the veteran bruisers up front. They still have recent first rounders: Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesley, so it’s not as if Washington is going the veteran route completely.
Whether Okafor and Nene can play together up front remains to be seen, but with Wall entering his third season it’s time to find out exactly what they have in the 2010 top overall pick.