The New Orleans Hornets are freeing up some salary cap room — by trading for the worst contract in the league so they can buy it out.
New Orleans trades Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to Washington for Rashard Lewis and the #46 pick.
This has been confirmed by the teams and league.
The Hornets do this to save money — Lewis is supposed to make $23.8 million next season but can be bought out for $13.7 million before July 1. You can bet that happens (and Lewis becomes a free agent). The move also takes Okafor out of the lineup to clear space for future No. 1 pick Anthony Davis in the starting rotation. It also gives the Hornets room to chase some quality (not max deal, but quality) free agents.
Basically, this is a good move for a building team in New Orleans. They are building something.
For the Wizards, this is a move for the right now, and not a great one. They now have now made their bed with a starting lineup of John Wall at the point, whoever they draft No. 3 (shooting guard Bradley Beal seems likely), Ariza on the wing, Okafor and Nene up front. I say made their bed because Nene is owed $52 million over the next four years while Okafor and Ariza are owed a combined $43 million in the next two. The Wizards are pretty locked into this roster for a couple years.
Is that a playoff quality team in the East? Maybe if Wall finally makes the leap it is a decent, but it’s not a young team building up to be a contender like we expected them to build. It’s a team with a ceiling below the Heat/Bulls, and frankly below the Pacers and others. Rather than using their amnesty on Lewis and creating cap space to go after free agents thinking long tern they went this route. Interesting. I don’t love it, but the Wizards’ success really comes back to Wall and his growth.