The Washington Wizards Pulled off a Pivotal Play with a Trade Aimed at Bringing Accountability
Washington Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld pulled off a surprising trade on Wednesday afternoon that should help his club further its efforts to add high-character, team-first, reliable professionals to a young nucleus of players.
Grunfeld’s trade, which took place eight days before next Thursday’s NBA draft, puts Washington in position to have a strong offseason, and for that Grunfeld is the recipient of this week’s Pivotal Play.
The Wizards shipped 32-year-old forward Rashard Lewis and a second round pick to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for front-court performers Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. This is a major move for Grunfeld and the Wizards, who are in the middle of a rebuilding process. The trade would have been worthwhile even if all it did was rid Washington of Lewis’ gargantuan contract. The second-highest paid player in the NBA, Lewis was scheduled to make $23.8 million dollars in 2012-2013.
In addition to getting rid of Lewis’ salary, the Wizards were also able to add a couple of proven veterans, both of whom should play vital roles for the team next season.
Okafor, the second pick in the 2004 draft, is a 6-foot-10 post player who can play both power forward and center. He’ll give the Wizards a potentially formidable tandem of paint-defenders if both he and Nene Hilario can stay healthy.
A stellar defender and rebounder who’s averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks a game during his eight-season, 511-game NBA career, Okafor has played in all 82 of his team’s games three times and in at least 72 games five times.
Ariza is known as being one of the league’s peskiest perimeter defenders. The owner of a championship ring, Ariza will bring an attitude to Washington that the Wizards have lacked for some time.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds in 41 games with the Hornets last season. Having shot just 33 percent from behind the arc in 2011-2012, Ariza shouldn’t be expected to cure the Wizards’ perimeter scoring needs but he’ll serve a nice purpose on the defensive end; just like he did when he helped the Lakers win an NBA title.
Getting rid of Lewis’ contract and adding a pair of instant-contributors came at a cost. Okafor and Ariza are due a combined $43 million over the next two seasons, which may mean Washington has slightly less monetary flexibility in the coming two years.
By adding Ariza, Washington’s now more likely to select Florida’s Bradley Beal in next weeks draft. Beal is a shooting guard who projects to be able to develop into a consistent scorer in the NBA. A shooter who can rebound well from his guard position, Beal is as ideal a fit with the Wizards’ rebuild.
Chalk this deal up as a pivotal play for Grunfeld, who is only getting started this offseason.