The Rockets traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2021 projected first-round pick. The blockbuster deal comes after weeks of trade rumors between the two superstars.
Westbrook only spent one season in Houston but reportedly requested a trade last month in hopes of finding a better fit and culture.
Wall has not played in a game since December 2018 after suffering a left heel injury then a torn left Achilles tendon during rehab.
The Rockets reportedly remain invested in James Harden and do not plan on trading him this season despite his own trade request.
The Crossover picked which team came out on top of the blockbuster deal.
Westbrook needed to go, and there were only so many places Houston could trade him. Wall is damaged goods but he’s been full speed since February and those that have seen him—including James Harden, who played pickup with Wall in recent months – have heaped praise on his play. Wall will need to improve as a shooter, but he’s a pass-first point guard on a team loaded with strong perimeter players, including Christian Wood, who could thrive alongside Wall in pick-and-rolls. If Wall is healthy, it can work.
So, too, can Westbrook in Washington. Scott Brooks knows what he is getting into with Westbrook, who he developed into an All-Star in Oklahoma City. Westbrook’s competitiveness will rub off on Bradley Beal, who isn’t nearly as ball dominant as Harden and who will benefit from playing alongside an established offensive player again. It doesn’t push Washington into the upper echelon in the East, but it probably pushes the Wizards into the Eastern Conference playoff field and ends a decade-long partnership with Wall that he made it clear he was ready to be done with.
Who won the Wizards/Rockets trade? The Thunder, of course. They netted a season of Chris Paul, at least three first-round picks and two pick swaps for unloading Westbrook a year ago. But between the Rockets and Wizards … well, the thing about “untradeable” contracts is that they are usually tradeable for other “untradeable” contracts. The Rockets are in a terrible hole. Tanking is not an option because if they stink, the Thunder will be the team that cashes in. Houston needs to get a huge haul for James Harden, but that’s going to be a challenge; Harden is such a great player but he is a unique one, and it’s harder to plug him (and his contract) onto another team than it would be for a more conventional superstar. We also have no idea if Wall is healthy—and if he is, if his body will hold up under the rigors of an NBA season. So the pick here is the Wizards, who at least have a chance to compete with a reconfigured team led by Bradley Beal and Westbrook, keeping the franchise relevant (though not near actual contention) going forward.
This is a bit of an underwhelming deal for both teams, but a Westbrook-for-Wall swap has its merits. The Rockets get a chance to hit the reset button one more time in hopes of keeping James Harden, and if healthy, Wall is likely a more functional fit than Westbrook.
I ultimately think this is a more worthwhile play for Washington. Russell Westbrook turned in the most efficient season of his career in 2019-20, with an injury-riddled playoffs obscuring his value. Westbrook will get to command more of the offense in Washington without James Harden domineering possessions, and a reunion with Scott Brooks can’t hurt. Consider the Wizards a fringe playoff contender in the East, though acquiring Westbrook doesn’t exactly improve their long-term ceiling.
The Wizards, but very slightly. It’s unclear if either the Rockets or Wizards made significant improvements on Wednesday night by acquiring Wall and Westbrook, respectively. Instead, it seems as if they swapped disgruntled guards hoping that a change of scenery would solve a number of long-term problems. Westbrook reunites with his old head coach Scott Brooks, looking to achieve a similar level of success in Washington that he did alongside Brooks in Oklahoma City. By all accounts the two have maintained a strong relationship, but Westbrook’s eventual success with the Wizards would appear to be linked with how he meshes with Bradley Beal, among any other factors. In acquiring Westbrook, the Wizards do get a guard who averaged 27.2 points per game last season (though he struggles throughout Houston’s time in the bubble) and finished the year with a career-high field goal percentage (albeit while shooting 25.8% from three). In that regard, the 32-year-old Westbrook is more of a known on-court commodity who will definitely take some pressure off of Beal.
Wall moves to Houston having not played in an NBA game since December 2018 after recovering from a number of serious injuries. He has said he feels “110%” and reports have surfaced about Wall’s strong workout reviews. Nevertheless, there is more uncertainly with his future and questions about if he can produce like his old self. Wall is still just 30-years-old, having made five All-Star teams in nine seasons (including his last five complete seasons in Washington). If he regains his lighting-fast speed that he had in Washington, he could continue to make Houston a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference. It’s unlikely, though, that the Rockets compete for a title with Harden and Wall as their two best players. Neither team got markedly better on Wednesday, and while Washington might be a slight, short-term winner of the deal, the trade’s real winner is future NBA stars, as it serves as the latest reminder of the leverage that players have in the modern-day NBA.
Trading Russell Westbrook for John Wall both makes no sense and all the sense at the same time. It’s a strange trade because of the similarities between the two players stylistically, with Russ obviously being more accomplished, but that also allows it to be a fairly simple swap. It’s essentially the Spider-Man pointing meme with a protected first round pick mixed in. For Houston, I understand seeing what Wall has given how things are sort of collapsing. And Westbrook should be a solid fit in Washington next to Bradley Beal and on a team that can spread the floor and compete for playoff positioning in the East. As for who won? That’s hard to say without knowing what will happen with James Harden. But I’ll go with the Wizards simply because they are the team I believe got better in the swap.