- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

After using a trade Tuesday to upgrade their perimeter attack, the Washington Wizards enter Thursday’s draft contemplating further deals that would strengthen the frontcourt.

According to a league source, the Wizards are considering parting with the 32nd overall pick - possibly in a package with aging point guard Mike James, whose contract expires after next season - in an effort to acquire a veteran big man who would add depth to the frontcourt.

If they are unable to land a veteran as part of a package deal, the Wizards still might trade the 32nd pick for future considerations.

The Wizards traded the No. 5 pick in the draft plus veterans Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday in exchange for swingman Mike Miller and guard Randy Foye.

The Wizards reportedly received trade offers from as many as 10 teams but settled on Minnesota, which also holds the sixth, 18th and 28th picks in the draft.

That left Washington with a roster that features seven guards, two centers, two power forwards and two small forwards.

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld didn’t outline his plan for the second-round draft pick but said he does have options.

“We feel like, yes, we are a little heavy at the guard position, but a lot of rosters are,” Grunfeld said. “We’ll see what opportunities present themselves to us and make a decision based on those options.”

The acquisition of Miller gives the Wizards a much-needed 3-point threat and a player capable of competing for the starting shooting guard position or of backing up All-Star Caron Butler at small forward.

The 6-foot-8 Miller owns a 13.9-point career scoring average on 46 percent shooting (40.1 percent from 3-point range) in nine seasons. Last season was his first in Minnesota, and he scored a career-low 9.9 points a game. But the Wizards are confident he can provide much-needed support for the nucleus of Butler and fellow All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and power forward Antawn Jamison.

Foye, who is entering his fourth season, was selected seventh overall out of Villanova and traded twice on draft night, winding up with Minnesota. He will join a backcourt that in addition to Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson, who is coming off back surgery, includes James, who turned 34 on Tuesday, and third-year guards Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton.

“It’s very seldom you can acquire two proven NBA starting players and add them without giving up significant players,” Grunfeld said. “This fills a need, which primarily is our outside play, and they’re both multiskilled players. Mike is an elite 3-point shooter who can really stretch the defense and provide an all-around game. And we see Randy as someone who can play both alongside Gilbert and also backing him up.”

But given that the Wizards’ roster featured a solid veteran cast and six developing players under the age of 23, they preferred to use the No. 5 pick to bring in veteran talent that would be able to contribute right away rather than waiting for young prospects to develop.

“I really like this deal,” team captain Antawn Jamison said when reached by phone Wednesday. “Not taking away from anyone in the draft, but I really think these guys can help us. We don’t have to work with anybody. These guys are guys that have been there, done that. They can come in and help us right away.

“Mike is exactly what we needed,” Jamison said of Miller. “A guy that can get off his shot from anywhere on the court. What he brings is something that we haven’t had since I’ve been here: a guy that can put the ball in the basket from anywhere and stretch the defense.”

Thomas didn’t return a voice mail left for him seeking comment, and Songaila is in Russia.

When Jamison learned of the trade late Tuesday night, he immediately sent Miller a text message “welcoming him to the Wizards family.” The players are represented by the same agent. Then on Wednesday, Jamison contacted Wizards vice president of basketball administration Tommy Sheppard to get Foye’s number so he could welcome him as well.

“I’m telling you - if we can stay healthy, this is a really dangerous team,” Jamison said. “I hear the young guys have been working; that’s encouraging. And you always feel better knowing that upstairs, they’re doing everything they can to make this team better. These are definitely pieces to the puzzle that will help us.”

• Mike Jones can be reached at mjones@washingtontimes.com.

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