Could the Wizards take Alex Len at No. 3?
We have finally reached NBA Draft week - and we finally have our first specific trade rumor involving the Washington Wizards and the No. 3 pick. Just don't get that excited.
An ESPN.com story surfaced Monday afternoon of "exploratory discussions" involving the Wizards and Bulls, the basis of which is Washington sending its 2013 first round pick and center Emeka Okafor to the Chicago for All-Star forward Luol Deng. Okafor, according to the report, would have to formally opt in to his $14.5 million option this week for the deal to occur.
Before the report could gain momentum, CSN's Chris Miller spoke with a Wizards source who classified the story as simply a "rumor."
Good thing because as reported, the deal makes little sense for the Wizards.
Deng, 28, is a two-time all-star who averaged 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists last season in Chicago, his 10th in the NBA. Still, with the emergence of Jimmy Butler during the playoffs, it makes sense Chicago would look to move Deng and his hefty salary. The former Duke star is set to earn $14.2 million next season.
The issue is that season also stands as the final year of his contract, meaning he would become a free agent in the summer of 2014 unless signed to an extension. Same goes for Okafor, who is slated to earn $14.5 million during the 2013-14 season, but Washington would also throw in potential long-term asset, one the team could pair with building blocks John Wall and Bradley Beal. Possible options for Washington at No. 3 include Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. and UNLV's Anthony Bennett. The draft takes place on Thursday night.
Trading for Deng would also effectively end any hopes of free agent Martell Webster returning to Washington. That's an awful lot to part ways with for a one-year rental.
Trading away Okafor would also hamper the team's top-10 defensive ranking. Without a first round pick and minimal cap space, the Wizards need Kevin Seraphin to play a larger role, but even at his best he lacks rim-protecting skills.
If the Wizards were an All-Star level small forward away from contending for the Eastern Conference title, such an expense might be justified. Even with Deng, it's no lock Washington is even among the top 4-5 teams in the East considering the Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks and Nets all have loaded rosters.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this rumor from the Wizards angle is the reminder that the Wizards do have interesting trade pieces in Okafor and Trevor Ariza, who is also entering the final year of his contract. Even if Washington keeps its first-rounder, the team could use the veterans as bait for other pieces to help the continuing rebuild or for a playoff push.