Lewis was not in the plans for the Wizards going into the next season and the team had to find a willing trade partner or give him a $13.7 million buyout by June 30. Rather than pay Lewis not to play for them, the Wizards elected to use that money on Okafor, the No. 2 pick of the 2004 NBA draft, and Ariza, who won a championship ring in 2009 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“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,” said team President Ernie Grunfeld. “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.”
Okafor and Ariza are owed a combined $43 million through 2013-14 and are expected to provide an added veteran presence for a team that currently has seven players with less than three years of experience and will add two more rookies in the draft, with picks No. 3 and No. 32.
Okafor, 29, averaged 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds last season but was limited to just 27 games and missed the final three months of the season with a left knee injury. The 6-foot-10 Okafor has career averages of 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds in a seven-year career with Charlotte and New Orleans and has mostly been durable, playing 82 games three seasons and at least 72 in two others. He is owed nearly $28 million over the next two seasons.
Ariza, 26, has bounced around New York, Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston and New Orleans in his seven-year career, posting career averages of 9.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. He averaged 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds and is a noted perimeter defender.
Lewis, the second-highest paid player in the NBA, had a disappointing 1½ year stint in Washington after arriving in December 2010 in a deal that shipped Gilbert Arenas to Orlando. He had his worst season since his rookie year last season, averaging 7.8 points and playing just 28 games because of problems in both knees. Lewis, 32, will likely be bought out.