- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Washington Wizards agreed in principle Tuesday night to send the fifth pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, along with center Etan Thomas and forwards Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov to Minnesota, multiple league sources confirmed.

In return, the Wizards would get third-year point guard Randy Foye and ninth-year veteran swingman Mike Miller.

The Wizards, who wound up with the fifth pick in the draft after an injury-plagued 19-63 season, had hoped to package the pick and Thomas’ expiring contract, as well as a few other pieces, to acquire veteran talent that 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 remained few options for players who could step right in and help a playoff-caliber team.

The Wizards maintain the belief 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.

They 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 the age of 23.

The Wizards remained hopeful that they could develop those six players - forwards Andray Blatche, Dominic McGuire and Pecherov, center JaVale McGee and guards Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton - to provide quality depth to their veterans, but Washington wasn’t thrilled about adding even more youth to the mix.

The Wizards sought to unload the injury-prone Thomas and his hefty contract at last February’s trade deadline but were unable to pull off a deal. Thomas, who missed all of the 2007-08 season following heart surgery, and then was limited to 26 games this past season because of a torn MCL, was slated to make $7.35 million next season. But his contract had a $1.2 million trade kicker, which had scared teams off. The paperwork that must be finalized involves Thomas signing an agreement he won’t opt out of his current deal on July 1 to pursue free agency. Thomas is expected to sign the agreement Wednesday morning.

Minnesota, meanwhile, desperately wanted to acquire a top-five pick to package with the No. 6 pick it already holds and possibly move up as high as second overall in the draft. Apparently, the fifth pick was worth Thomas’ salary and Songaila ($4.5 million) and Pecherov ($1.55 million).

Songaila was a reliable veteran backup power forward/center for the Wizards. Last season, he averaged 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 77 games. 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.

Foye started 61 games last season for Minnesota and averaged 16.3 points and 4.3 assists. He and Miller join a backcourt that includes point guards Arenas, Javaris Crittenton and Mike James and shooting guards DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young.

Miller helps upgrade the Wizards’ shooting guard and small forward positions. He averaged a career-low 9.9 points a game this past season, but for his career averages 13.9 points on 46.2 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

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

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