With the entire country waiting to see how tonight’s Game 5 pans out, the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets finalized a deal posing itself as one worth devoting some attention towards. The Wizards sent Rashard Lewis, his egregious contract and the #46 pick in this year’s draft to The Big Easy in exchange for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. None of the names involved are superstar-caliber, yet it does present an interesting scenario. Take these three points, for example:
1. Anyone who follows basketball can testify Rashard Lewis’ contract is one of the roundabout reasons we had the NBA lockout. At his best, he’s a solid piece on a championship level team. At worst, well, earlier this year I attended a Clippers/Wizards game and let’s just say Rashard started the game and ended up with more turnovers than points. Good or bad, he’s not worth $20M+ per season regardless of how the pie is sliced. Acquiring Lewis means the Hornets slash $43M owed to Okafor and Ariza through 2014, while picking up Lewis’ $23M for this year. That right there is $20M saved and can even buy out Lewis for approximately $14M if they do so before July 1.
The #46 pick is more of a token addition as the squad already owns the first and 10th overall picks. New Orleans rids themselves of two quality role players, but can potentially clear a boat load of cap space in the process. Quality names are in the free agent class of 2012, so it’ll be interesting to see if the franchise can lure any of them to the Gulf Coast.
2. Don’t look now, but the Wizards are attempting to piece together a solid nucleus in the nation’s capital. Ariza, when motivated (see the 2011 Lakers/Hornets series), is a gritty player damn near anyone would love to have for his perimeter defense and overall athleticism. Pair that with a franchise-caliber point guard in John Wall and steady center in NeNe, putting Trevor right in the middle bodes well. Okafor provides even more of a defensive identity to a team desperately needing one (he’s a career 13-10-2 blocks guy). The Wiz already have solid bench size in Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesley and Chris Singleton, too.
Even with President Ernie Grunfield saying the move won’t effect draft plans, it’s still fun to ponder. If you’re a Wizards exec and/or fan, do you feel comfortable running with Jordan Crawford at the two and pile up on big men by adding Kansas’ Thomas Robinson? Or do you use the third pick and snatch Bradley Beal, the shooting guard from Florida touted as the best at his position in the draft?
Personally, a Wall-Beal-Ariza-Okafor-NeNe starting five sounds slightly better at this point still allowing the team to have a solid bench (on paper, at least). And yes, this potentially means Washington ends one of the most memorable and infamous eras in the city’s sports history via amnesty or some sort of goodbye – the Andray Blatche reign of error.
3. What does this do for Cleveland now? If the draft goes as planned and Davis goes #1 to New Orleans, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to Charlotte, and Beal to Washington, it leaves the Cavs in a very enviable position. Thomas Robinson would still be available, but seeing as how they scooped Tristan Thompson last year, that could get confusing although Robinson appears to have a higher upside. This means Harrison Barnes falls right in their lap at #4.
Tons of people are predicting Barnes falls flat on his face in the league; much of the disdain stemming largely from an unfulfilled, yet insanely hyped pre-college backstory. Best case scenario if Cleveland does indeed go this direction, however, Barnes morphs into a Joe Johnson-type player. And before you start throwing tomatoes, realize Johnson is actually a good player. He’s just not worth all the money combined in every Atlanta strip club the Hawks threw at him in 2010. Johnson’s actually a dope option whenever he’s not your best player.*
Remember how fun JJ was to watch when he wasn’t the team’s best player in Phoenix? Granted, he was like the fourth best there, and Barnes would be second or third in Cleveland. Nonetheless, Kyrie Irving has perennial All-Star written over him and give the former Dukie a running mate at the two who just happens to be a Tar Heel? That and he’d be the best floor general Johnson’s played with since Nash (no disrespect to Jeff Teague). Pending all these fantasy pieces come together, it may not be all bad in Cleveland in the near future. All we can do is pray the Cavs somehow finagle a playoff birth next year and draw Miami. Yes, please.
* – The exact reason Joe should’ve went to Chicago in 2010. A Rose-Johnson-Deng-Boozer’s head paint-Noah starting five is downright nasty.