Eight days before the 2012 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards made a trade that was met with mixed reaction from fans, writers and the basketball intelligencia. Rather than sit on a decent amount of cap room over the next two seasons had ...
Eight days before the 2012 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards made a trade that was met with mixed reaction from fans, writers and the basketball intelligencia. Rather than sit on a decent amount of cap room over the next two seasons had they released Rashard Lewis and used the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche, the Wizards opted to cash in for certainty in the form of Hornets veterans Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor.
Most of the objections centered around the two player's salaries, which were seen as a bit much for players of their quality and might have prevented the Wizards from using cap flexibility in other ways. Here's what I wrote about the deal after it happened:
Essentially, the Wizards are getting two potentially useful rotation pieces that are excellent defensively, not great offensively and don't address the Wizards' biggest need (though the draft pick might). They're short-term upgrades on the incumbents -- Ariza on Chris Singleton, Okafor on the combination of Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely -- but the cost is any possible salary-cap flexibility the Wizards have for the next two seasons, as described here. Nobody really knows for sure what would have resulted from that flexibility, but I would argue that doing nothing here was preferable to getting Ariza and Okafor.
Now that we're a year into the deal, we have a better idea of what Ariza and Okafor were worth on the court and whether any good potential opportunities slipped by the Wizards. It's as good a time as any to reflect on a trade that prompted some of this site's biggest arguments.
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Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza's stocks were at a low point before Ernie Grunfeld acquired them. Both players floundered on an aimless Hornets team that was ticketed for the top of the lottery after trading away Chris Paul right before the season. Two years before, they were starters on a 46-win team that challenged the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, but without Paul, their usefulness went away. Okafor's season was lost in February with a knee injury, while Ariza was told to sit in April so the Hornets could get closer looks at Al-Farouq Aminu and Xavier Henry.
Grunfeld made the trade figuring that Okafor and Ariza would recover to their 2010-11 levels while playing for a similar kind of team. For the most part, he was right, though it wasn't always so clean.
Faced with the prospect of once again not having their star point guard, both players began the year dreadfully. Okafor found himself benched at the start of the year, while Ariza loafed on both ends and failed to provide the kind of scoring the Wizards needed without John Wall and Nene. The trade initially looked like a disaster as the Wizards struggled.
Things started to turn around, though, once the Wizards' stars returned. Nene came back in early December and was eventually moved into the starting lineup with Okafor. Together, they were a solid defensive tandem, with Nene doing most of the lateral switching on the floor and Okafor cleaning up at the rim and on the defensive glass. (They remained a bad offensive duo, but the defense more than made up for it on many nights). Ariza, after missing most of December with a calf injury, benefited from Wall's health more than anyone, shooting 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range after the All-Star Break.
BF's 2012-13 Player Evaluations: Emeka Okafor Trevor Ariza
With the Wizards' stars healthy, Okafor and Ariza could focus on what they did best. Okafor's scoring efficiency took a major hit because he was forced to shoot more mid-range jump shots than he wanted, but his defensive rebound percentage was the highest of his career. He also proved to be as good a teammate as advertised, lighting into Wall when he was struggling in a moment that may have turned Wall's season around. Ariza's shot distribution changed significantly once Wall arrived, as he shot significantly mo