“It doesn’t affect the draft at all,” Grunfeld said.
The Wizards auditioned Kansas junior power forward Thomas Robinson, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal, Kentucky swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes and Connecticut big man Andre Drummond for the No. 3 pick. With the recent addition of size, the Wizards would appear more likely to address their needs for perimeter shooting and scoring help in the draft. Either way, Grunfeld said the organization would be patient with the draft selection.
“I think we’re going to get a player that’s going to be with us for quite some time,” he said. “I don’t think we’re depending on a rookie to come in and play 40 minutes a night for us, either.”
For the past two years, the Wizards spoke repeatedly about their desires to build through the draft and develop talent from within. Grunfeld contends that the plan remains the same, since the team was able to add talent without raiding its own talent pool. Lewis, the second-highest paid player in the NBA, had a disappointing, injury-plagued two-year stint with the Wizards, averaging just 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 60 games after arriving in December 2010 for Gilbert Arenas.
“Rashard unfortunately was injured while he was with us and he didn’t get an opportunity to show the kind of things that he was capable of doing or that he did before his injuries,” Grunfeld said. “He had a very hefty buyout in his contract and we elected to add a couple of players to the roster by using his contract.”
The Wizards had no intention of bringing back Lewis next season, but to cut ties, they had to either find a willing trade partner or complete a buyout agreement for $13.7 million of his $22 million salary. Rather than pay Lewis not to play for them, the Wizards elected to use that money on Okafor, an NCAA champion center at Connecticut who went second overall in the 2004 NBA draft, and Ariza, a forward who won a championship ring in 2009 with the Los Angeles Lakers. Okafor and Ariza are owed a combined $43 million through 2013-14 and will come off the books when Wall will be approaching restricted free agency.
“We get players that are good solid players and fill two solid needs for us. So, instead of going into free agency to fill our needs, we did it through a trade,” Grunfeld said in a conference call. “These players fit in well with what we’re trying to do. I think we’re going to be a better team with the addition of these players and the players we’ll add in the draft. But where we’ll be in the Eastern Conference, only time will tell.”