According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards have agreed to a trade that would send big man Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza to Washington in exchange for forward Rashard Lewis and Washington's second round pick in next week's NBA Draft.
That pick is No. 46 overall. According to those same sources, the Hornets are planning to waive Lewis to cut around $10 million of the $24 million he was expected to make this upcoming season. The trade also rids New Orleans of its two most troublesome contracts.
The Hornets have hinted for weeks that they were looking to move Okafor, who was owed $28 million for the next two seasons, as well as Ariza (who was owed $7.5 million next season with a player option for nearly $8 million in 2013-14) and were willing to dangle the No. 10 pick to do it.
With Okafor and Ariza finally gone, that means the Hornets will keep the No. 10 pick, right?
In a recent online chat, ESPN's Chad Ford mentioned that rumors have been circulating that the Hornets are still looking to move their second first round pick in the hopes of getting back a young veteran. Some of the names that have been discussed are Philadelphia guard Evan Turner, Indiana Pacers point guard and former Hornet Darren Collison and Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe.
Another name that Ford mentioned was Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap. SI.com is reporting that the Hornets as well as the Portland Trail Blazers have expressed interest in Millsap's services. The Blazers' other first round pick is just behind New Orleans, at No. 11.
As for the trade, the move saves the Hornets roughly $30 million, which gives them a large amount of cap room to re-sign shooting guard Eric Gordon and potentially be players in free agency. If the team decides to keep the 10th pick, their interest in guys like Collison and Bledsoe would suggest they are looking at a point guard. Weber State's Damian Lillard would be a great fit in New Orleans if he were to fall to them.
As for Washington, they turned Lewis' expiring contract into two high-priced defensive stalwarts who were underwhelming in New Orleans. Okafor went from a double-double machine in Charlotte to struggling to keep his spot in the starting lineup on a stumbling Hornets team. Ariza averaged just over 10 points per game in his two seasons with New Orleans but was benched late last season in favor of Al-Farouq Aminu.
With needs at both forward positions now filled, it's looking more and more likely that Florida guard Bradley Beal will hear his name called when the Wizards pick at No. 3. That is, of course, if Charlotte doesn't beat them to the punch with the second pick.
With Gordon and Anthony Davis in the fold, as well as another lottery pick and cap room, the Hornets suddenly look like a team that could make some noise in the near future.
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