WASHINGTON – The Washington Wizards strengthened their lineup by obtaining forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday for forward Rashard Lewis and a draft pick.
The Wizards, who also sent the Hornets the 46th overall pick in next week’s NBA Draft to acquire the American duo, were 20-46 this past season, the second-worst record in the NBA but only one game worse than New Orleans.
“We are pleased to add two more solid pieces as we continue to build our roster with a balance of proven veterans and the core of young talent that we have developed,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said.
“Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt and both fit in very well with the type of team-first culture we’ve been working to establish.”
Okafor, a former No. 2 overall draft pick, has averaged 12.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots a game over his first eight NBA seasons with the Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats, who had the NBA’s worst record last season.
Okafor, the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year, averaged 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 53.3 percent from the field in 27 games for the Hornets last season while slowed by a left knee injury.
The 29-year-old power forward’s parents are from Nigeria.
Ariza, 26, averaged 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals last season for the Hornets and has career averages of 9.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals in eight NBA seasons.
With guard John Wall setting the pace and Brazilian big man Nene in the middle, Okafor will add a shot-blocking threat and Ariza, who helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2009 NBA crown, should boost the Wizards’ steals totals.
The Hornets, who own the first pick in next week’s NBA Draft, dumped long-term salary committments that will help them pay for the top selection, expected to be University of Kentucky playmaker Anthony Davis.
Lewis, who averaged 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Wizards last season, is also likely to be cut to trim the money he will be owed in the final year of a six-season deal worth $118 million.