WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Unexpected, random, satisfying yet puzzling, the Washington Wizards have pulled off a trade just eight days prior to the NBA draft.
Washington will receive veterans Emeka Okafor, 29, and Trevor Ariza, 26, from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the 46th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
I'm 75 percent in favor of the trade because...
1) Instead of gambling in free agency, the Wizards killed two birds with one stone.
Getting rid of Rashard Lewis -- and his $23 million cap hit for next season -- was atop Ernie Grunfeld's to-do list this offseason. It makes complete sense for a rebuilding team like the Hornets to take on his salary load.
If you browse through the 2012 NBA free agents, who out of the available players are you absolutely salivating over? Maybe Nicolas Batum, but he's restricted. And for a five-year $50 million contract, is he really that much better than Trevor Ariza? Not worth the commitment if you ask me.
The Wizards essentially punted on free agency for the next two offseasons, by taking in guys with little left on their contracts. As pointed out by Mike Prada on Twitter, Ariza's contract is for two-years and $15 million, while Okafor's is for two-years and $27 million, with a team option for the second season.
My point is that while both players clearly have their faults, the Wizards are not screwed in the long term.
2) The trade makes it quite likely that shooting guard Bradley Beal will be the Wizards pick next Thursday.
Beal would fill the Wizards two biggest needs: a consistent creator in the mid-range and a three-point shooter in the clutch not named Jordan Crawford. Beal was a supreme rebounder for his 6'4" size (ranking 45th in the entire country in boards per game) and also was heralded as a vocal leader -- something the Wizards are desperately lacking.
3) Now John Wall doesn't really have an excuse to underperform
Barring anything unforeseen, the Wizards won't be picking in the top 10 of the 2013 draft. Washington's frontcourt depth is among the best in the league. The team flourished following the trade for Nene on defense.
Now with the additions of Ariza -- a capable 6'8" slasher who can hit shots and cause matchup problems -- and Beal, Wall finally has adequate toys to play with. Usually by an NBA player's third year, we begin to fully understand who he is. All the Wizards are asking Wall to do is cut down on turnovers and read game situations better. The shooting can be left up to Beal and Ariza.
I'm 25 percent opposed to the trade because...
1) The frontcourt rotations are going to get messy
Who starts at power forward? Do you ride Kevin Seraphin's wave from the end of last season? Do you conserve Emeka Okafor's health and bring him off the bench? Where will Trevor Booker fit into this? One of those three is only going to get 12-15 minutes a game.
And can Jan Vesely successfully make the transition to small forward? As impossible as it sounds, his jump shot is actually more broken than Wall's. It's obviously better to have a crowded portion of the roster, as opposed to a meager section. But don't rule out another trade from one of these players for more shooting help.
2) The pressure is on
The era of Ted Leonsis' patience plan has been tossed aside -- and I must say Grunfeld has been pretty creative in getting rid of the dead weight on the roster. Would you trade Rashard Lewis, Nick Young and JaVale McGee for Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor? Of course you would.
With that being said, many fans are going to be expecting a playoff berth next season. As they should. These moves symbolize that this team is positioning themselves to at least compete at the .500 level, right away. The bottom two seeds in the Eastern Conference are generally teams breaking through the restraints of rebuilding in the NBA. With Okafor and Ariza in D.C., envisioning a home playoff game at the Verizon Center is now a distinct possibility.
If the Wizards fail to make the playoffs over the next two seasons, the organization can't blame youth, or coaching. Grunfeld can only blame himself.