MIAMI — The Washington Wizards have been down this road before, making moves as the draft approaches and preparing themselves for what could be, if everything falls into place.
Their ongoing real franchise makeover that began at the trade deadline with the addition of Nene for JaVale McGee was followed up with this afternoon’s announcement that the Wizards have acquired Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick in next week’s draft.
“We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement released by the team. “Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish.”
The Wizards get two starters to flank John Wall and Nene from the Hornets in exchange for Lewis and the cap flexibility he will bring. Lewis can be bought out for $13.7 million by the June 30 deadline, which is roughly half of the nearly $23 million he is owed next season. The Hornets have not indicated what direction they plan to go with Lewis, but his expiring deal will give them some room to work with in free agency sooner or later.
The Wizards also have the No. 3 pick in next week’s Draft, giving them several options in trying to add a quality shooting guard or small forward, a player pool that could potentially include the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilcrhrist, Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal, players expected to be among the top five picks in the Draft.
The Wizards’ attempts to surround Wall with veterans and high-character teammates remain their clearest path to returning to playoff contention. Both Okafor and Ariza are eight-year veterans and well-respected around the league for their professionalism and championship experience; Ariza won a ring with the Lakers in 2009.
The Hornets have the No. 1 pick in next week’s Draft and no doubt have rebuilding plans of their own, a blueprint with likely No. 1 pick Anthony Davis as the centerpiece. But the Wizards have a chance to accelerate the process with this latest move.