The Washington Wizards traded injured center Emeka Okafor (neck) and a protected, 2014 first round pick to the Phoenix Suns Friday in exchange for 29-year-old center Marcin Gortat and guards Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee, and Kendall Marshall. The trade answered Washington's short term concerns at center, but left a lot of questions--starting with an 18-man roster--on the table.
The Wizards finished their preseason 2-5 Wednesday in a 101-82 road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bradley Beal paced Washington with a team-high 21 points, Trevor Ariza had an in-prime flashback with 19, 4 steals, 5 assists, and 8 rebounds, and pick-up Al Harrington scored 17 off the bench in a huge, comeback win. Their starting center--Nene--struggled, with 7 points and 4 rebounds in just over 23 minutes, and John Wall fared worse, with only a single bucket on the night.
The addition of Gortat should give Wall and the Wizards a pick n' roll center who will be able to go from the start of the season. While Okafor rehabilitates his herniated neck, Nene will play off-center and Washington will have an inside presence with the mobility and speed to play the fastbreak. It's a combination Gortat, himself, seems happy about. "(N)ene/gortat...I like that!!!!!" said Gortat on Twitter, in response to the trade. The road might be bumpy, but there is no reason to expect Gortat not to succeed in Washington's offense (or at the very least, he's a much better fit, athletically, than Okafor or anyone behind him in the depth chart).
"We have solidified our frontcourt by adding a player who has established himself as a very consistent and productive inside presence over the last three seasons," said Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld. "Marcin's ability to rebound, defend, and score will allow us to continue where we left off last season and pushes us further toward our goal of becoming a playoff team."
Washington said goodbye to Josh Childress, Xavier Silas, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and D'Or Fischer after preseason, which brought them back down to the league maximum 15 players. The Phoenix trade puts the Wizards back up to 18. The general consensus is the three included guards--Brown, Lee, and Marshall--will all be waived. This move for Gortat, who will be in Washington for just this year under his current contract--and the fact the Wizards will cover more costs in order to trim their roster--continues the plan of owner Ted Leonsis, who wants the franchise to be known as a franchise willing to spend money in order to attract and build the best capable team.
C -- Marcin Gortat
PF -- Nene
SF -- Martell Webster
SG -- Bradley Beal
PG -- John Wall
C -- Kevin Seraphin
PF -- Al Harrington
SF -- Trevor Ariza/Otto Porter, Jr.
SG -- Glen Rice, Jr.
PG -- Eric Maynor
The Wizards will begin their regular season Wednesday, October 30, at the Detroit Pistons.