NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Hornets traded forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday for forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick.
Lewis, a former Seattle SuperSonic, is entering the last season of a $118 million, six-year contract and could be a candidate for the NBA’s amnesty clause, meaning he may not end up playing for the Hornets if New Orleans chooses to cut him loose in order to clear space under the salary cap.
“We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction,” Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. “This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward.”
New Orleans also receives the 46th pick in this year’s draft, which originally belonged to Dallas.
The Hornets, who are expected to take Kentucky star Anthony Davis with the top overall draft pick and also have the 10th selection, did not have a second-round pick before the trade. Washington, meanwhile, has the third overall pick and still has the second pick of the second round.
Okafor has never lived up to being the second pick in the 2004 draft, but has averaged double figures in points (12.7) and rebounds (10.1) during his career. Last season, however, he averaged a career-low 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds and missed time with a sore left knee.
Ariza averaged 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, but was deactivated for the last few weeks of the season while the Hornets, already well out of playoff contention, took a closer look at younger players on the roster.
Several of those younger players, including second-year swingman Al-Farouq Aminu, showed signs of improvement as the Hornets won eight of their last 13 games.
Washington president Ernie Grunfeld expressed confidence that Okafor and Ariza could mesh nicely with the Wizards.
“We continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Grunfeld said. “Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish.”