Wizards, Hornets exchange huge contracts

Emeka OkaforThe NBA Finals haven’t even ended and we already have a trade. 

According to Jonathan Givony with DraftExpress.com, the New Orleans Hornets have traded Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis and the number 46 pick in next week’s NBA Draft.

At first glance, you read it and think “The Hornets did what?!” but it’s important to keep in mind Rashard Lewis has one year and $23 million left on his contract. That means they’ll have just around $35 million committed to salaries after next season (assuming they sign Eric Gordon to a long term deal in $60 million range).  So that’s a lot of flexibility to go after restricted free agents, make a trade that would take back some extra payroll or go after a big fish in next summer’s free agent market.  Of course the big fish I’m talking about is Chris Paul.  Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, whoever the 10th pick in the draft is, next year’s draft pick (most likely late lottery to mid-first round), head coach Monty Williams, GM Dell Demps and new owner Tom Benson is an awfully strong pitch to make to Paul, especially when you consider the way the Clippers botched Neil Olshey’s contact.  Even if it doesn’t result in the prodigal son returning to New Orleans, the Hornets have put themselves in an amazing position moving forward.  Having the ability to draft Anthony Davis helps too.

This is a pretty good trade for the Wizards too.  It gives them two veteran role players to take some pressure of John Wall and the rest of their young core.  Trading for both guys also pretty much signals that they’re going to draft Florida guard Bradley Beal next week.  With Ariza, they now have three small forwards on their roster they’ll need to find minutes for.  This also gives Washington room to use their amnesty provision on Andray Blatche, who has even less of a role in Washington now with Okafor there.  This team will likely compete for the final playoff spot in the East, which is progress and have cap room two summers from now when Okafor and Ariza are both off the books, which will be just in time for them to extend John Wall and continue to build around him.