Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has reported that the Wizards have traded Rashard Lewis and a second round draft choice (46th overall) to the New Orleans Hornets for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. When I first got word of this deal being done I had a series of thought bubbles. I’m going to rehash them here, in order of perceived importance (at least to me), in today’s bullets:
- This has to mean the Wizards will select Brad Beal with the third choice in this years draft. I’d be quite excited if this were to be the case, as I’ve written before. Trevor Ariza gives the team a very similar small forward to what Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have been next season. He obviously isn’t the long term solution but next year they will be roughly equivalent, production wise. Our only glaring hole in the starting line up (and really the second unit as well) is at the shooting guard position.
- What if another team selects Brad Beal at 2? This would be a bad situation for the Wizards because no other player really fits the team. I believe Charlotte would trade the pick, draft Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, in that order, before selecting Beal. They have needs at every position and, all else being equal, shooting guard is the least valued position in the NBA. Their top scorer is also a shooting guard in Gerald Henderson. It is unlikely they draft Beal. I don’t believe Cleveland would give up an asset to move up for Beal when they would have Barnes or MKG sitting at their pick anyway. Portland could trade up using the 6th and 11th but I don’t think they’d do it or go for Beal. The most likely scenario involving a team that might draft Beal is if Andre Iguodala or Rudy Gay are traded for the second pick. Overall, I’d say Bradley Beal being drafted 2nd is unlikely but the idea is scary.
- Andray Blatche fits even less with this team than he ever has before. There really is no place for him on this roster. That’s another excellent development. Look at the big man rotation: Nene and Okafor starting, Vesely and Seraphin behind them, Booker and possibly James Singleton behind them. That is a quality six man deep big man rotation. There just aren’t minutes for Blatche. Combine this with the fact that the Wizards will need space to pay for Nene, Okafor, and Ariza means to me that he will probably be amnestied.
- John Wall should blossom next season, both according to perception and to reality. Wall has taken a lot of criticism recently for his slow development. While some of that is warranted, I believe too much is being placed on his shoulders. He’s had as poor of an environment as possible, especially compared to his peers Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. His has a competent team around him now. His team improving will have a lot to do with his own improvement. Lead players on winning teams get a lot of credit from the media, almost regardless of whether they deserve it. Also, a full non-lockout summer will surely be helpful to his development.
- Okafor and Ariza’s contracts aren’t that bad. They are each paid too much but that is the nature of salary distribution in the NBA. Rookie contract players are seriously underpaid which leads to a large sum of money being available for veterans. Both contracts are short, only two years remaining on each. After next season each player is then an expiring contract that the team can use to flip for other quality players like we did with Rashard Lewis in this trade. Also, the team needed to add good veteran players. This years free agent market is barren. They wouldn’t have been able to add pieces like Okafor and Ariza without a trade. Okafor and Ariza are only average to slightly above average players during a good year but that’s an upgrade over anything the Wizards have.
- This team just got a lot deeper. I haven’t examined it too much but on first glance this roster looks like a playoff team. Beal, Ariza, and Okafor are upgrades at each position and more importantly the second unit is now much stronger because of this. A second unit of Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, and Kevin Seraphin would be about as good as most of the Wizards starting line ups during the last half decade.
- The team has several quality young pieces that they will need to have cap space to resign once their deals are up. The good news is that Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza’s deals expire right as these young players are eligible for extensions. Adding those two will help build a winning organization that will help the team retain John Wall and other young players, if they choose to do so.
Overall, I like this trade. It greatly improves the overall quality and depth of the roster. It almost assures the drafting of Brad Beal, who is second overall on my big board and a perfect fit for the team. We’re building a play off team that might be a .500 team next season, similar to the height of the Arenas, Butler, Jamison years. The difference this time is that our ceiling is much higher. The team has young players who still have a lot of room to develop. This team is much deeper than any of the teams of that era. Lastly, the contracts for these veterans aren’t as crippling. As a long suffering Wizards fan, I’m just excited about potentially seeing winning basketball next season.