John Wall for Russell Westbrook Swap
The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards agreed on a trade earlier last week. Houston will send Russell Westbrook to the Wizards in exchange for John Wall and 2023 protected 1st round pick.
The Rockets were already making major roster moves, but now they are looking down the barrel of a complete rebuild if they part ways with James Harden. Westbrook spent just one season with Harden and the Rockets after they had acquired him from OKC.
To pair Russell Westbrook with Harden, the Rockets gave up Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 first round picks, and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025. That is a major haul for the Thunder.
After the trade on Wednesday that sent Westbrook East to Washington, the Rockets landed John Wall and a 2023 protected 1st round selection.
This means that the Rockets ended up with John Wall and a 2023 protected 1st round pick in exchange for one underwhelming year of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, 2 1st-round picks and 2 pick swaps.
All I am trying to say is that the Rockets set themselves back a great deal in terms of assets by gambling on a Russell Westbrook and James Harden reunion in Houston. Obviously, it was a failed experiment as the Rockets did not even make it to the Conference finals this past season.
Yes, Houston’s brass and Mike D’Antoni did get to live out their fantasy world of having 5 ‘position-less’ players on the court at a time. A Starting lineup whose main rim-protector was PJ Tucker… Granted it seemed to work in the regular season, but when crunch time came around, they had no chance without a consistent rebounder or paint presence.
Now, the Rockets get to pair John Wall with James Harden… provided Houston doesn’t find a trade partner for Harden. James Harden apparently wanted to play with John Wall rather than Russell Westbrook, so maybe he does plan on staying in Housing… Time will tell on that. Time will also tell on whether John Wall is 100% healthy and ready for the long grind of an NBA season again. Wall hasn’t played an NBA game since December of 2018. When he steps on the court for the Rockets it will be two full years since he has competed at this level. If he comes back like the John Wall of old, the Rockets will have a solid backcourt. If he comes back and remains limited and injury prone, the Wizards found a sucker to take him off their hands.
On the flip side, Westbrook gets to reunite with his old head coach, Scott Brooks in Washington. A young Wizards team that should benefit from a veteran, former MVP presence in the locker room. However, there are concerns about Westbrook and that he is a poor teammate. He has addressed the issue and says that it pains him to be portrayed as a bad teammate. Hopefully, he can resurrect his career in Washington as his reputation took a bit of a hit with his Houston stint.
Overall, this trade is hard to grade until we see results on the court. Looking at the deal at face value, I don’t think either team improves. John Wall and Russell Westbrook have very similar play styles when they are healthy.
In the long run, I would rather take the gamble on Wall to remain injury free and produce like he has in the past over an elder Westbrook. Wall will play this season at age 30 while Westbrook is 32. Both play a tenacious brand of Basketball. Elite explosiveness, playmaking ability, and 100MPH all the time. It will be exciting to see Wall back on the court playing with former Kentucky teammate, DeMarcus Cousins.
Something to watch on both sides, however, is how Wall and Westbrook will fit in next to their new running mate. Many said Westbrook slowed down the production of Harden… If that was the case, I would imagine he would have a similar impact on Bradley Beal.
As I mentioned previously, Harden wanted Wall over Westbrook so keep on eye on how they play together in Houston as well. Since Wall and Westbrook have similar play styles, If Westbrook was a detriment to Harden, Wall may be as well.
We will not have to wait long to see the impact of this trade. The season starts later this week when the pre-season tips off. It won’t be instant chemistry as the new duo’s will need some time to get acclimated, but it will be something to watch with both teams moving forward on which got the better end of the deal.