The New Orleans Hornets traded forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday for forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick.
“We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction,” Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. “This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward.”
Grunfeld said the deal won’t have any effect on the team’s draft plans.
“We felt like we needed to add some veterans to the roster, and we were able to do that with this move. … We get players that are good solid players and fill two needs for us,” he said. “Instead of going into free agency to try to fill our needs, we did it through a trade.”
The second round pick is the #46 pick.
New Orleans Hornets
This is a good trade for New Orleans but part of me is sad that Anthony Davis won’t have Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to help him out defensively and show him the way forward early on in his career.
My expectations for Davis in the long term are very high but in the immediate sense, I am expecting him to be more of a quality 30mpg rotation player than an All-Star caliber player.
Having a defensive anchor like Okafor alongside him at center (while Davis starts off at PF) would have taken a lot of pressure of his shoulders and allowed him to develop at his own pace. Someone who can lead while Davis finds his comfort level in the NBA. Ariza too, a top notch defensive wing, someone who can take pressure off of Davis and make his life easier. Be the Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins to Davis’ Serge Ibaka if you will.
That all said, moving those players will make New Orleans a lot worse in the immediate sense and give them higher draft picks moving forward which will help them put other top tier young talent alongside Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon which will help them long term. So there is clearly enough value here to make this worthwhile for New Orleans. Still, part of me is disappointed that Davis won’t have that extra help while he learns the ropes in the NBA.
PG – Jarrett Jack, Greivis Vasquez
SG – Eric Gordon, Marco Belinelli
SF – Trevor Ariza,
PF – Anthony Davis, Carl Landry
C – Emeka Okafor
The Hornets could even go a step further and bring back Chris Kaman here and bolster their frontline even more. That said, I wouldn’t have done that. I would have preferred to give Davis some minutes at center while Okafor rests alongside Carl Landry. I think those three players could make a potent three player big man rotation. Someone like Jason Smith and/or Gustavo Ayon as the fourth and fifth bigs.
That team would have been really solid. A .500 team comfortably. Maybe slightly above. A 45 win team perhaps.
Anyway, it was not to be.
PG – Jarrett Jack, Greivis Vasquez
SG – Eric Gordon, [Marco Belinelli]
PF – Anthony Davis, [Carl Landry]
C – [Chris Kaman]
With Okafor gone, I think the odds of New Orleans choosing to keep Chris Kaman will have grown considerably. And with a dodgy free agent marketplace for Kaman, I think the odds of him choosing to stay are pretty high too.
Then there is Landry and Belinelli plus their #10 draft pick. Three more variables.
So there is still a chance to have a decent team there next season. If they decide to go the other way and dump some of those veterans, they could fall back to that 25-32 win territory and pick up another top draft pick. Given the loss of Okafor and Ariza, that is my preferred long term strategy. If, however, they choose to win-now with their veteran FAs … I will be disappointed that they didn’t just keep Okafor and Ariza instead because I think they (Okafor especially) would have been very beneficial to Anthony Davis’ development.
The Hornets get their cap space a year earlier now.
I don’t see this as a major advantage because I doubt they’ll be able to convince any headliners (free agents) to sign there for at least two years anyway … until Anthony Davis establishes himself as an All-Star caliber player. Like I said earlier, my expectations for him as a rookie are well short of that so I don’t think he’ll be a major draw for FAs next year.
That said, they can still get some value out of that cap space by renting it out for a year in return for young talent / draft picks.
Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain?
Not wild about this move for Washington. Concerned actually. With this move, Washington has tried to fast-track their development by making short-term upgrades to their roster that will unfortunately also limit their long term opportunities.
Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza are a pair of quality veteran players and are average starters at their respective positions. Neither is a high level offensive player but they will do a lot in other areas. Individually and combined, they will bring a large does of defense and possession creation.
So, they will provide the club with a large boost in the W-L column next season. However, that will come at the cost of the Wizards draft pick slots for next year and the year after. A higher placed finish in the league leads to a lower draft pick. Which is fine when you have a quality core to build around long term but Washington isn’t there yet.
The Wizards have only one genuine building block on their roster and that is John Wall. Emeka Okafor and Nene are both fine players but they will both turn 30 in the near future and are exiting the prime years of their career. Neither one offers a long term future to the team. Trevor Ariza is a role player. Blatche is a question mark (read: a colossal mess who is highly unlikely to put it together). Their other young players (J.Crawford, Seraphin, Vesely, Booker), well, none of them look like star talent in the making.
Which brings us to their draft pick in this year’s draft. The #3 slot. There is a lot of pressure on this pick. Washington need a home-run. They need to find an All-Star caliber prospect here to put alongside John Wall. To at least give them a second building block with the hopes of adding a third or fourth down the road in free agency and/or in trades. Because if they fail to do that, if they strike out on a star talent (and draft another Kwame Brown or even a Mike Conley type player), that will be a major blow to their long term hopes of winning a league title.
So bringing it back, with an improved roster that stands a good chance of making the playoffs next season, the Wizards should be finishing somewhere in the middle of the first round next year and hopefully even higher the year after. However, without Okafor and Ariza, and if they were building patiently instead, the Wizards would likely add another top 5-7 pick and a top 10-15 pick the year after. Two more chances to add another high level prospect + quality prospect to their core before they are ready to start moving forward.
The question then is: Which option gives them a better chance of competing for a title in the future? Okafor and Ariza? Or the higher draft picks in future seasons?
And then we have the loss of cap flexibility in 2013/14 which could have garnered further assets.
PG – John Wall,
SG – Jordan Crawford,
SF – Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely
PF – Nene, Trevor Booker
C – Emeka Okafor, Andray Blatche, Kevin Seraphin
Plus, their #3 draft pick which very well may be Bradley Beal. Obviously, he’d be the guy who most naturally fills that void at SG. Although, Harrison Barnes may also be a good option here.
With that draft pick addition + with some work adding bench players (especially in the backcourt), the Wizards stand a good chance of being a .500 team next year.
Fair chance John Wall makes a leap next season too after stagnating this past year. The Wizards could end up being a dangerous team.
Ted Leonsis got sick of losing a large number of games and all the immature nonsense of their young players (Nick Young, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee) and demanded they turn it around more quickly.
In doing so, he has harmed the Wizards long term development. They will win a few more games next year though and that’s what matters, right? Not winning a Championship, that simply isn’t a priority.
To me, there has been a serious lack of leadership and long term planning from the ownership and front office in this decision.
#3 Draft Pick
To reiterate — this year’s pick is huge. This will likely be their last top five pick, last lottery pick, for the foreseeable future.
The Wizards need a home-run here. They need a second (young) All-Star caliber player to put alongside John Wall.
Otherwise, they are heading down a win-now road with no idea as to how they will build a title contender further down the line (other than getting on their hands and knees and praying for it).