Round Table: Wizards-Hornets Trade


The news shocked us all last week. Some pleasantly surprised, others not so much.

I’ve already wrote about how I feel about the trade to acquire Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, but how do some of the other Wiz of Awes writers feel about it?

Here are William Stokes, Christopher Cook, and Ben Mehic to share their thoughts on the potentially franchise-changing trade.

William Stokes

I understand why people were immediately skeptical of the trade, especially those on Twitter who rarely watch the Wizards and only expect terrible executive decisions. With Lewis and Blatche off the payroll, the Wizards would have had a fair amount of cap space, which could have been used for a variety of different free agent pickups or extensions. Instead, the Wizards got Okafor and Ariza. They add to a log jam in the front court, which not only would lead to fewer minutes for our young players like Singleton, Seraphin, Booker, and Vesely, but could actually lead to one of them being shopped for another shooter. Ariza and Okafor have limited offensive capability. Even if Bradley Beal falls to the Wizards at the three spot in the draft and the Wizards retain Crawford off the bench, points will be at a premium next year. Finally, this is by no means a winning roster. It’s probably at tops a 7 or 8 seed. Many believe that this gets away from the plan of developing through the draft or that the Wizards are making a move too early.

All things considered, I tentatively approve of the trade. While I am slightly worried that some of our young frontcourt players will have their minutes cut, I think on the whole this is a low risk, high reward trade. First, I’ll address why I think its low risk. I think that the overriding concern of most critics of the trade was the free cap room that the Wizards were giving up. Both Okafor and Ariza are on two year contracts. I feel the worst case scenario, in terms of our cap, is that Okafor and Ariza are shipped off in two years with much of our young core still intact.

The Wizards have currently been following what has been termed “the Thunder Model”. The Thunder model advocates unloading all your assets and rebuild through the draft, taking advantage of rookie contracts along the way. The problem the Wizards have faced is the while the Thunder scored one super star and two all-stars through the draft, the Wizards have scored one maybe all-star and a bunch of solid role-players. Not being surrounded by good veteran talent has directly affected the development of John Wall. David Thorpe, executive director of the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., and an NBA analyst for ESPN.com, compared John Wall’s development to trying to paddle out of a whirlpool. Deron Williams criticized Wall’s supporting cast. The Spurs are constantly able to develop late round talent not only because of a good scouting, but also because they have veterans that can both show their new players the ropes and instill a winning mentality. Russell Westbrook developed with James Harden. John Wall has developed with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford. This trade would go a long way to change that.

Ariza and Okafor are also stopgaps for two of the three biggest problems with the Wizards now: Rebounding and the Small Forward position. Sure, Ariza isn’t a sexy free agency pickup like Nicolas Batum, but he is a huge upgrade over last year’s Chris Singleton. A four point increase in PER and also has experience winning an NBA championship. Okafor isn’t an incredible rebounder, but on the rebound lacking Wizards, adding someone who averaged about 10 rebounds a game last year is a plus. I also think that Ariza and Okafor provide a huge defensive boost for the Wizards. If the Wizards field a strong defense and inside presence, the rebounds and forced turnovers leading to easy Wall transition points will make up for at least some of the problems the team will face in its halfcourt sets.

I don’t think that this will be the final roster before next season. I think that at least one more move is going to be made. There is just too much frontcourt depth and too little shooting skill on the roster for it to be effective. But I do think that this move was a step in the right direction. If you don’t think we were going to get a good free agent in the next two years, I don’t think there is much of a reason to oppose the move. The contracts are only on the books for two years. If we are going to have money, it’s not worth doing nothing for two years and then spending. We can be competitive in the meantime.

Christopher Cook

I was fairly surprised when I first heard about the Wizards trade with New Orleans. I was surprised that the Wizards were in the news for doing something other than running back on defense when your team still has the ball, but most of all, I was surprised because it seems like a smart move.

This isn’t the move that most Wizards fans were dreaming of. There isn’t really anything sexy about it. Both players are a little overpaid, but not as grossly overpaid as Rashard Lewis. I know what everyone is saying, “But Chris, we were going to buy out Rashard Lewis and clear out cap room to make a big move!” If we were any other franchise except the Wizards, and probably the Bobcats, that would be great logic. The reality of that situation is that we haven’t been very good lately, and to get players to come play for a team that isn’t very good, you have to overpay them. My original thoughts were, “Man, we are really going to have a logjam at the forward positions next year.” Then I realized when it is ever a bad thing to have too many options? It reminds me of another team I watch named the Baltimore Orioles. This past off-season they just loaded up on pitchers. There weren’t any superstars in that mix, just some guys that have had some limited success that the casual fan had never heard of. All the talk during the off-season was about how bad the team could be this year. Well, we are sitting here in June just a couple games out of first place in the division and have one of the best bullpens in baseball. They stockpiled as many players as they could and just picked the best guys from that group. The Wizards could be another surprising team like the Orioles this year.

We have no idea what the Wizards’ rotation is going to look like. I assume it will be Ariza, Nene and Okafor starting at the 3, 4 and 5 respectively, while Chris Singleton, Booker and Seraphin back them up. Somewhere in there Jan Vesely will steal some minutes when we need him. That’s not a bad rotation. If you consider that Booker has had some injury problems his first two years in the league and Nene isn’t exactly Cal Ripken these days, you probably feel a little bit better about having those other guys to throw out there. I’ve always been a fan of Ariza since he helped the Lakers to the 2009 championship with plays like this. Ariza has a knack for making some big defensive plays at big moments. Okafor has now completed the Holy Trinity of playing for the three worst franchises in basketball. He’s a solid double-double guy making too much money on what is probably the downward slope of his career. He’s been pretty durable for most of his career, but hasn’t played since February when he was bothered by a knee injury. The bright side for Okafor is that he is coming to an organization that seems to cherish players with bad knees for a reason the fans may never understand. All I can say is I feel okay about the way we spent our money on this one. These guys aren’t going to make us a championship contender, but they both know what it is like to win. Okafor has his college National Championship and Ariza has a ring to show for his time with the Lakers.

Now the Wizards are just one shooting guard away from a starting five that could stand toe-to-toe with most teams in the league.

Ben Mehic

With the NBA Finals still going on, the Washington Wizards pulled off a ‘blockbuster’ trade. It was a very Wizard like thing to do, to say the least.

When the trade first occurred, Wizards fans appeared to be overwhelmed with joy. The Wizards essentially got rid of Rashard Lewis, who they were expected to buyout, for two good rotational players in Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. I became a fan of Ariza in his time with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Wizards added a player who can rebound, excels at defense, and can also score in the open court. Ariza is only 26 years old and is taking the opportunity to become a veteran leader for this young Washington team. It should be interesting to see how Ariza meshes with Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, since both of their games are very similar. His familiarity with John Wall will also help him come on to the team and contribute right away. Besides, the Wizards gained a starting small forward with the addition of Ariza.

Emeka Okafor has also added depth to the team’s frontcourt. Okafor averages just under 13 points and 10 rebounds for his career, and is one of the best character guys in the league. Although he lacks the offensive skill on the low block, Okafor makes up for it on the defensive end of the floor. Okafor contributes by rebounding the basketball, which is an area the Wizards suffered at after the Nene trade. With Seraphin, Booker, Nene, and even Jan Vesely, the Wizards are ‘stacked’ at power forward and center. I’m intrigued to see how Randy Wittman splits the minutes amongst the big men. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ernie Grunfeld tries to deal one of the players mentioned, which will most likely be Booker, in order to accommodate their roles on the team.

The only downside with this trade is the loss of flexibility for Washington. Okafor is set to make 27 million dollars and Trevor Ariza 15 million, all over the next two seasons. This is where it gets interesting. The Wizards ‘plan’ was to acquire talent through the draft, trades, and free agency. And the addition of Okafor and Ariza takes the Wizards out of free agency contention for the next two seasons. Unlike most Wizards fans, I’m really not that worried about it. Were the Wizards going to acquire any major talent through free agency? Probably not. The only way the Wizards will improve their roster significantly is through the draft and trades. Let’s not forget, the deals are only for two years. After their first season, Ariza and Okafor will be decent trade bait due to their expiring contracts. I’m not at all worried about the Wizards salary cap situation.

Okafor and Ariza have instantly made the Wizards a playoff contender. We haven’t seen the Wizards in the postseason since 2008. There is absolutely no downside to making the playoffs, even if Washington is low seeded. Let’s not forget that the Wizards are still in their rebuilding stages. Washington didn’t get rid of any young talent from their ‘core’ after the trade, and will only get younger after this year’s draft. The Wizards still have John Wall, the other batch of third year players, and the third overall pick to develop. Getting a taste of the playoffs can only help further develop the Wizards’ young players.

I’m ready for this team to succeed, even if that means merely competing for a playoff spot. With the addition of good character’guys, defenders, and offense, the Wizards are on their way to success. The notion that the Wizards will be stuck in ‘purgatory’ as Wiz of Awes’ own, Kevin Hine worded it, is simply jumping to conclusions. I fully expect John Wall to become the All-Star we know he can develop into, and the third overall pick-which is most likely going to be Bradley Beal out of Florida, to make a great impact on this team. The trade can only help boost their development.

I’ll give this trade an A.

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