The Washington Wizards played their final game of the 2011-2012 season on April 26. Rashard Lewis last played February 22 due to a sore left knee and as it turns out that was his final game as a member of the team. The Wizards announced earlier today they would be sending the veteran forward, along with the No. 46 pick in next week’s NBA Draft, to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for center Emeka Okafor and versatile wing player Trevor Ariza.
Washington’s main options on Lewis were to buy out the remainder of his contract for $13.7 million by June 30 or find a willing trade partner because he more than likely wasn’t going to have a major impact on next season’s squad. He was acquired late in 2010 in the deal that sent Gilbert Arenas to the Orlando Magic and while he was marginally effective for the remainder of that season to say his impact on the 2011-2012 season was minimal would be disrespectful to the word minimal. In 28 games Lewis averaged 7.8 points on 39% shooting from the floor and 24% from behind the three-point line, where he’s made 39% over his career.
In return the Wizards get Trevor Ariza, who can play the shooting guard and small forward positions. He won’t create many shots for himself but will provide a more-than-capable option in the transition game with John Wall leading the break and can hit an occasional three. On the defensive end Ariza has the length and leaping ability to hold his own with the best perimeter players in the league and should provide immediate improvement to a team that struggled to stop opponents from scoring on a consistent basis.
Emeka Okafor played in one less game than Rashard Lewis last season, ironically also due to a knee injury. When he did play Okafor averaged 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1 block per game for the Hornets. He brings with him to Washington solid career averages of 12.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. When healthy Okafor can control the paint at the defensive end and will allow Nene to shift to the power forward spot, where he’s probably better suited defensively, when the two are on the floor together.
Financially, Washington locks themselves in to roughly $43 million between Ariza and Okafor through the 2013-2014 season.
The Wizards should see immediate benefits from the trade. In Ariza they get a veteran who has a championship ring from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers and 41 games of playoff experience to mix in with a team that has more than a few players with little regular season experience, let alone in the postseason. His veteran leadership and defense will be welcomed. Okafor can, and should, anchor the defense in a way Washington was hoping JaVale McGee would.
This trade makes University of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal an ideal selection with Washington’s No. 3 overall selection in this year’s draft. He would provide a much needed scoring option and fill a hole at the shooting guard position in a starting lineup containing Okafor, Nene, Ariza, and Wall.