The New Orleans Hornets have traded Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick in the draft, reports Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com (via Twitter). The Wizards have officially announced the swap in a press release.
We heard last month that the Wizards planned to shop Lewis prior to the draft, and at the time, I expressed skepticism that they'd find a trading partner. Although Washington did find a taker for Lewis and his $22.7MM salary, the cost was steep — in addition to packaging a draft pick with Lewis, the Wizards acquire Okafor and Ariza, two players with multiyear contracts New Orleans had been looking to move.
Lewis' $22.7MM 2012/13 cap figure is only partially guaranteed for somewhere in the neighborhood of $13.7MM, so the Hornets would save about $9MM if they release the veteran sharpshooter before July 1st, which they intend to do, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Okafor, meanwhile, has two years and $28MM+ remaining on his contract, while Ariza has two years and $15MM+ left. Having been traded, none of the players involved in the deal are eligible to be amnestied.
Although the Wizards' future cap flexibility takes a hit in the trade, the deal looks good from an on-court perspective. In Okafor and Ariza, Washington adds two solid, albeit expensive, rotation pieces to join John Wall, Nene, and the rest of the team's young core. And with Lewis gone, Andray Blatche becomes the club's clear-cut amnesty candidate. ESPN.com's Chad Ford also points out (via Twitter) that the move could eliminate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson from consideration at No. 3 overall, since it "screams Bradley Beal."
For the Hornets, clearing the two big contracts from their books presents an opportunity to create a good chunk of cap space next summer. While the Hornets are expected to re-sign Eric Gordon this offseason, the only contracts presently on the team's books for 2013/14 and beyond are rookie scale deals and non-guaranteed contracts.
Due to the difference in salaries in the deal, the Wizards also acquire a small trade exception, worth $1,703,491. They'll have a year to use it.