- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Washington Wizards agreed in principle Tuesday night to send the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, center Etan Thomas and forwards Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov to the Minnesota Timberwolves for guard Randy Foye and veteran swingman Mike Miller, multiple league sources told The Washington Times.

The deal is expected to be finalized Wednesday morning after Thomas, who is due a $1.2 million trade bonus, signs an agreement that he won’t opt out of his contract - which runs through the 2009-10 season - on July 1 and pursue free agency.

Foye, a three-year veteran, started 61 games last season and averaged 16.3 points and 4.3 assists, while Miller has averaged 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in nine years in the league.

The Wizards, who were awarded the fifth pick in the draft lottery after an injury-plagued 19-63 season, had hoped to package the pick, Thomas’ contract and a few other pieces for veteran talent who would improve their chances of making a deep playoff run.

This year’s draft class is headlined by Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin, but after the NCAA player of the year, there are few players who could step right in and help a playoff-caliber team.

Furthermore, the Wizards believe that with a healthy nucleus of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, they can return to the ranks of Eastern Conference contenders.

Foye and Miller bolster a backcourt that includes point guards Arenas, Javaris Crittenton and Mike James and shooting guards DeShawn Stevenson - who is coming off back surgery - and Nick Young.

Washington entered the offseason with a roster that featured the All-Star trio of Arenas, Butler and Jamison; a solid supporting cast of veterans; and six players under age 23.

The Wizards remained hopeful they could develop those six players - forwards Andray Blatche, Dominic McGuire and Pecherov, center JaVale McGee and guards Young and Crittenton - to provide depth, but they weren’t thrilled about adding even more youth.

Thomas, who missed all of the 2007-08 season after heart surgery and then was limited to 26 games last season because of a torn MCL, was slated to make $7.35 million next season. But his contract included a clause that now will pay him $1.2 million because he will be shipped to Minnesota.

The Wizards sought to unload the injury-prone Thomas and his hefty contract at February’s trade deadline, but that trade kicker and Thomas’ fragile health scared teams off.

The Timberwolves already hold the sixth, 18th and 28th picks in the draft. However, they desperately wanted to acquire a top-five pick, and apparently the fifth pick was worth Thomas’ salary and those of Songaila ($4.5 million) and Pecherov ($1.55 million).

A reliable veteran backup power forward/center, Songaila averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 77 games last season, including 28 starts. Pecherov, a third-year forward from Ukraine, played in just 32 games last season and averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 8.7 minutes.

The Wizards still hold the 32nd overall pick (No. 2 of the second round) in the draft.

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