Anyone that has followed this downtrodden franchise for the last 30 years knows that when it comes to making trades for players that Wizards haven't exactly been on the winning end of deals. Granted most of the ones I remember were those under Wes Unseld's watch but anyone that thought trading Chris Webber, who was entering his prime, for an aging Mitch Richmond needed to have their head examined. Some would say trading Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland was a terrible deal but that was a move that fit a need, I guess the question would be could the team have gotten more value based on Rasheed's potential but he was so volatile and had so many red flags would it have been worth passing on the deal. Besides when you have Webber, Juwan Howard and Gheorghe Muresan its not going to be easy to find room for a powder keg like Wallace who could take a team that has its bigs in foul trouble and make them even thinner by getting tossed from a game.
The next trade I can think that the team made was the Ben Wallace for Ike Austin trade...MORONS! Or how about Richard Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse? IMBECILES...I only remember one positive from Stackhouse as a Wizard and that was his last second tip-in alley-oop to beat the Lakers.
The best trade I can think of was moving the albatross contract of Howard, Calvin Booth (who I liked) and Obinna Ekezie (Terp love) for Christian Laettner, Courtney Alexander, Loy Vaught (totally forgot about him), Hubert Davis, Etan Thomas (who in the end became the center piece of the deal) and $3 million. That trade, executed by Michael Jordan, was probably one of the best trades I'd ever seen the team make, even if it looks insignificant 11 years later. The two teams did another deal 3 years later when Laettner and Stackhouse, along with Washington's 1st Round Pick (Devin Harris) were traded to Dallas for Antawn Jamison. While it would have been nice to have Harris, Jamison was a solid veteran addition, stand-up player on and off the court and brought leadership to a team sorely needing it. Unfortuantely for the NBA good guy his time in Washington didn't end as pleasant as it started.
This brings us to yesterday's trade. The Wizards traded Rashard Lewis, he of constant knee or back or ego injuries and due $23 million this upcoming season, and a 2nd Round Pick for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Many, myself included, expected the Wizards to just buyout Lewis for nearly $14 million but GM Ernie Grunfeld had said he would be available if the right deal came along.
Apparently that right deal did come along as the Wizards added an All-Star caliber C who had averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds over his career and a SF who can play defense and get hot from beyond the arc. I'm not a big fan of Ariza but he's an upgrade over Mo Evans and both players bring quality leadership to a young team. Also a front-court of the defensive minded Okafor and Nene can be intimidating to opposing teams and be helpful to a team that has lacked on defense. While the offense may suffer some they will also be good mentors to Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin which should help both players grow. Both young guys shined last year and showed their potential when healthy and given minutes. One concern is both veteran bigs are injury prone.
I honestly haven't been this excited for a move in a long time and had even read a few weeks ago how it would take a lot (multiple 1ist round picks being one thing) to get Okafor. Apparently freeing up $30 million in cap room was more important to the NBA and its new owners and while the cap room would have been nice for the Wizards lets be honest no big name player outside of Gilbert Arenas has come to Washington as a free agent and after the guns in the locker room incident and the immature attitudes of the players who would want to? So a deal was the way to get big name players and while Okafor may not be along the lines of Chris Bosh and more a poor man's version of Andrew Bogut he is a NCAA Champion and former NBA Rookie of the Year, and the #2 pick from the 2004-05 draft.
Now the team will have to learn to play fundamental basketball under Coach Whittman, who I felt deserved the contract he got since the team responded to him. They are still a team without an identity. John Wall, Jordan Crawford, and Trevor Booker thrive in an up-tempo offense. Okafor and Nene are a bit better in a slower scheme and will need to avoid foul trouble for this team to really make strides. While this move doesn't put the team in playoff position, they still have to move Andray Blatche, they have the 3rd pick in the NBA draft and I would guess they have another trade (not Blatche) that they'll make, this is a move that puts the team in the right direction and brings in the right group of character guys. I seriously doubt you'll hear about Okafor getting shot at 3am or involved with ladies of the night or whining over playing time.
As a Wizards fan you have to feel better about this move and this team than you did going into the draft lottery. By the way has there ever been two players named Trevor on the same NBA team during one season? Of course these are the Wizards, Okafor is injury prone and the Curse of Les Boulez always looms.