The Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards agreed to a trade Friday that includes a swap of big men Marcin Gortat and Emeka Okafor.
Gortat was joined by guards Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and Kendall Marshall in a package to Washington that delivers a protected first-round draft pick to Phoenix.
The Wizards would keep the pick if it is in the top 12; otherwise, it would be added to the Suns’ stockpile of top picks for what is projected to be a loaded draft. In addition to their own pick, the Suns also have first-round picks from the Timberwolves (protected through No. 13) and Pacers (protected through No. 14).
Gortat acknowledged his departure from Phoenix on his Twitter account, saying: “Hey Suns army i wanna thank u for amazing 3,5 year!!! It was great to play for this city and this organization.
“I will never forget what u did for me! U took my game to another level
and made me a better player. always felt u guys were my family.”
Washington, which has been stuck in the draft lottery in recent seasons, is taking a big swing at the playoffs with the addition of Gortat, but even with the expected improvement of guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards landing back in the top 12 picks wouldn’t be a shock.
Like Gortat (who will be paid more than $7 million this season), Okafor is in the final year of a contract worth $14.5 million this season. The second overall pick in the draft after leading Connecticut to the NCAA championship in 2004, the 31-year-old Okafor averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game last season. His status for the upcoming season is unclear, as he has been dealing with a disc problem in his neck.
For the rebuilding Suns, the trade of the 29-year-old Gortat and his expiring deal was not unexpected, as the veteran center was considered perhaps the team’s most valuable asset and became expendable with the selection of center Alex Len with the fifth overall pick in June’s draft. Originally acquired in 2010, Gortat had a career year in 2011-12, his first season as a full-time starter, averaging 15.4 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. But his opportunities were more limited last year, and his numbers dropped to 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in an injury-shortened season.
The trading of Brown, a veteran who was expected to share minutes at shooting guard, would be expected to provide more playing time for rookie Archie Goodwin, whom Phoenix traded up to select at No. 29 in the draft.
Marshall, the Suns’ selection at No. 13 overall in the 2012 draft, has been unable to find his way into the lineup for most of the past two season.
With Marshall’s departure, Ish Smith is likely to make the Suns’ roster as a backup point guard.