When the amnesty clause for NBA teams was announced following the resolution of the lockout, Wizards fans instantly looked at veteran forward Rashard Lewis and the roughly 46 million dollars owed to him over the next two seasons. Since then, team President Ernie Grunfeld and Lewis’ agent have confirmed that Lewis will not be an amnesty candidate this year, and that he will be a Washington Wizard when the season tips off on December 26th.
Lewis came over last season from the Orlando Magic in an exchange for Gilbert Arenas, who was just amnestied by the Magic. It was the right move last year to make on the Wizards’ part getting rid of Gilbert Arenas. Gilbert had his era and was a terrific player in his time here but with John Wall at the point guard position it was time to trade Arenas. In the one for one trade the team made, Rashard Lewis came to D.C. Lewis may have the most notorious contract in the NBA – he’s the second highest paid player in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant – but he is still owed less money than Arenas, his contract expires a year earlier than Arenas’, he doesn’t have the off-court baggage that Arenas accumulated, and Rashard plays a position that the Wizards were thin at last season.
After the trade occurred nearly one year ago on December 18th, Lewis wound up starting 27 games and played in a total of 32 here. His numbers were unspectacular and he battled some nagging injuries as well a season ago. As training camp opens, Rashard is the projected starter at the small forward spot once again this season and while he doesn’t have the ability to score 20 points a night like he once did in his earlier years with the Seattle SuperSonics, he will need to improve his scoring from a year ago when he only averaged a mere 11 points a night for the Wizards. He’ll certainly have the opportunities for a team that is devoid of consistent sources of points, especially if Nick Young leaves in free agency.
With Lewis’ aging body at now 32 years old and declining numbers year-by-year we shouldn’t be expecting much improvement, but he does have value to a team lacking any true veteran voice. However, going beyond this year is where Lewis’ value will be felt for the Wizards. As I wrote about in Andray Blatche’s season preview, Lewis could have value next season as an expiring contract for a team looking to trade for Lewis and take on his massive contract in an effort to clear up cap space the following season. That reason alone is enough not to amnesty Lewis and pay him to essentially go away. While Lewis’ contract is hefty, the Wizards are not in danger of going over the salary cap this season and Lewis is a good veteran to help mentor immature young players like JaVale McGee and Andray Baltche in the front court.
Stay patient and next season the trade for Rashard Lewis will continue to pay dividends.
Twitter: @Kevin_Hine and @WizOfAwesKevin