The Wizards and Hornets finalized the first trade of draft season this afternoon, with Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza heading to Washington in exchange for Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick. The deal could be a win-win, as the Wizards acquire two solid veteran rotation players that could help them become a playoff club in the near future, while the Hornets clear two expensive contracts from their books and create excellent long-term cap flexibility.
If I had to pick a winner, I like the Hornets' side a little more. Clearing out their two biggest contracts without giving up any other assets means the Hornets will be in great position to build around Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, and the No. 10 pick in this year's draft, and could be a player on the free agent market this year or next. For Washington, I'm not sure if Okafor and Ariza are enough to put the team over the top in the short-term, and their contracts will make it difficult to make any other impact moves.
Here are a few more reactions and quotes on the deal….
- Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld on the trade: "We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed. Emeka's defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish."
- Asked why he dealt Rashard Lewis for two lengthier contracts rather than simply buying out the veteran, Grunfeld told Michael Lee of the Washington Post (Twitter link) that the buyout money would have gone toward a player who didn't contribute anything. Okafor and Ariza may be overpriced, but they should still be solid contributors.
- Grunfeld added (Twitter link) that the move doesn't affect the team's draft plans, though the widely-held belief is that it opens the door for the Wizards to draft Bradley Beal at No. 3.
- Hornets GM Dell Demps on the trade: "We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction. This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward."
- Zach Lowe of SI.com doesn't love the trade for the Wizards since he doesn't think Washington is good enough to play the "win now" game and believes the move limits the team's ceiling.
- The move is much riskier for the Wizards than the Hornets, writes Sean Deveney of the Sporting News, who says Grunfeld and the Wizards were under pressure to improve the roster by the team John Wall is eligible for an extension.
- Trading Okafor could open the door for the Hornets to draft big man Tyler Zeller at No. 10, says John DeShazier of the New Orleans Times Picayune.
- Chris Bernucca of Sheridan Hoops thinks the move could allow the Hornets to pursue players like Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries, Lou Williams, or Jamal Crawford in free agency. I'd be surprised if the Hornets pursue many major outside free agents this summer — I think they'll hold onto their cap space until next summer, when they'll be in position to clear even more room.