Hollinger: Sonics unlikely to net much in sign-and-trade for Lewis

ESPN.com's John Hollinger has (by far) this morning's best take on Rashard Lewis' agreement to sign a max contract with the Orlando Magic.

First off, he thinks this is a classic case of a guy being worth more at a certain price to one franchise than he is to another. In this case, it made sense for the Magic -- who believe they can contend quickly in the mediocre East -- to sign Lewis to a max deal, but not the rebuilding Sonics.

(B)y not maxing out Lewis right now, the Sonics are better poised to add players later. Removing Lewis' cap hold puts Seattle $3.8 million under the salary cap right now, if we assume a $56 million cap for this season (again, the final number won't be known until July 11).

But the big splash is two years down the road. At that point, the expiring deals of Wally Szczerbiak and Chris Wilcox will take roughly $20 million off the Sonics' books. While extensions to Robert Swift and Delonte West are likely to eat up a portion of that, it still leaves Seattle with more than enough dough to chase a superstar in the summer of 2009.
Of course, what's unstated there is that the Sonics will be able to spend that $20 million at a time when Durant and Green have two years under their belts, putting Seattle in a position to make the kind of "over-the-top" move that potentially puts them in position to contend for championships.

And as for the possibility of getting something in return for Lewis in a sign-and-trade? Unlikely.
The problem is making it work. Although Seattle and Orlando have eight days to work out a deal, there isn't a great chance of this happening. Seattle reportedly isn't enamored of anyone on the Orlando roster (well, except Howard), so at best it would need to be a three-way deal. Those types of swaps are notoriously complex and difficult to pull off, especially because other teams covet few of Orlando's assets.

He does pose one interesting theory, however.
What Seattle might find more alluring is the prospect of a trade like Indiana made a year ago with the Hornets when Peja Stojakovic left. That swap gave the Pacers a $7.5 million trade exception that they turned around to acquire Al Harrington. In this case, the Sonics would get a $9.35 million trade exception (again, assuming a final cap number of $56 million) if they took nothing back from Orlando.

But this works only if Seattle can offer Orlando a little something for the trouble -- a draft pick being the most likely bait. And the trade exception might not mean as much to the Sonics as a draft choice at this point in their rebuilding process -- especially because trade exceptions can be difficult to use and expire in 12 months.
Let's hope GM Sam Presti can figure out a way to make this happen. Letting Rashard walk doesn't net the Sonics the $15 million or so he would have been making here -- remember, they would have been using their Bird rights to sign him, so it would only leave them $3 million or so under the cap. It's a number unlikely to result in the Sonics landing much help for this upcoming year.

And as for other rumors surrounding the Sonics?

An interesting one being reported by FoxSports.com: Richard Hamilton and Nazr Mohammed for Earl Watson, Chris Wilcox and Damien Wilkins. It's a deal the Sonics should do in a heartbeat, but you probably won't see much come from it until the negotiating window with Lewis has expired on July 11. But who knows? Maybe the Pistons become the third team in the sign-and-trade ...

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