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What Does the Wizards-Hornets Trade Mean For the NBA Draft?

The Wizards inexplicably shipped Rashard Lewis and his expiring contract to the Hornets in exchange for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. It’s a puzzling trade, but one that will certainly have an impact on the NBA draft next week.

The Hornets are expected to buy out Rashard Lewis and his $23 million contract (he’ll pocket $13.7 million according to one report), leaving them with a) massive cap room and b) a shell of a roster. Chris Kaman’s a free agent. So is Carl Landry. Neither is expected to return. Clearly, the Hornets’ plan is to build around Anthony Davis, overpay Eric Gordon, and then target whatever free agents they can next year (Andrew Bynum? Chris Paul?). I’ll still hold out hope they make a run at Deron Williams this summer, just so that post can look prescient. The Hornets also have the 10th pick in the draft, and unless they get Deron Williams, they’ll be back in the lottery next June.

I got several tweets Wednesday saying this was a big win for Washington. I saw Mike Wilbon on PTI give this deal an “A.” Disagree. Why take on Okafor (two years, $27 million left) and Ariza (two years, $14 million; player option for the 2nd year), who are overpaid anyway? Why not just waive/buy out Lewis? This could mean that the Wizards actually like the idea of a frontline comprised of Nene, Okafor, and Ariza. (They’ve got to amnesty Andray Blatche, right?) I’m just not sure two lumbering big men blend in well with one of the NBA’s fastest point guards. Plus, you just drafted Jan Vesely last year. When does he get a chance? This is a poorly built team that will once again struggle to score. Defensively, they’ll be improved.

Which leads us to the draft. It’s still unclear what the Bobcats will do with the No. 2 pick, but the Wizards are picking 3rd and you’d have to think a) they hope Brad Beal falls to them; b) if Beal isn’t available, is Harrison Barnes the guy? The only issue with that – they’ve got Ariza and last year’s 1st round pick, Chris Singleton at the position. Vesely – reminder: This is his girlfriend – can play the 3/4. Barnes obviously has more upside than those guys, but how many players can you be giving big money to who are rotting on the bench?

Here’s a scenario: The offensively-challenged Bobcats take Brad Beal 2nd. What do the Wizards do with the 3rd pick? They need a shooting guard – Jordan Crawford’s more of a 6th man than a starter, seeing as he does nothing but shoot – so do they grab Jeremy Lamb, Dion Waiters or Austin Rivers 3rd? Unlikely. The smart move would be to slide down 3-4 spots, perhaps acquire a 2nd round pick next year, and then take Lamb/Waiters/Rivers. Somebody will want to trade up for Barnes.

As for the Hornets, Anthony Davis + Austin Rivers at 10 would be an enormous haul; I think Anthony Davis + John Henson at 10 would be a great tandem, perhaps solidifying their PF/C combo for years. What about Royce White at 10? Too early?

Previously: 2012 NBA Mock Draft

 

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