Russell Westbrook traded for John Wall
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Russell Westbrook traded for John Wall

I assume the thinking was, “What the hell, let’s do it.” After a lot of speculation, the Rockets and Wizards agreed to swap two of the NBA’s worst contracts. The winner? Well, I guess the Rockets as they got a first-round pick and a million dollars less on the books. A heavily protected first-round pick. 

  • Rockets get: John Wall (three years and $132 million left), and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round
  • Wizards get: Russell Westbrook (Three years and $133 million left)

The pick isn’t just lottery-protected in 2023 – it has protections that include picks Nos. 1-12 in 2024, picks 1-10 in 2025, and picks 1-8 in 2026. If it doesn’t convey until 2026, the Rockets will get two second-rounders in 2026 and 2027. 

The Wizards

The logic was simple. Wall wanted out, and they had to bring in a player to help them get to the playoffs. The primary target here is to convince Bradley Beal that Washington’s future is bright, and there’s no need for a trade demand. I’m not sure Westbrook is the man for that job. 

Russ said he wants more of the role he had in OKC. That means running the show while everyone does as he says. If that’s the idea, Beal is gone. Westbrook is a horrible shooter and poor decision-maker. He still has value and many strengths on the basketball court, but everything he says indicates Westbrook wants a style of play and role that brings out the worst parts of his game. 

This is going all-in on, “Bradley, don’t leave us.” Won’t work.

The Rockets

The Rockets are in a very similar position. They want to keep James Harden on the team. Again, not sure John Wall is the guy to get the job done. But, grading on a scale, I’d say the Rockets increased their chances with Wall instead of Westbrook. 

Wall is coming off an Achilles. His last NBA game was on Dec. 26, 2018. We have no idea what kind of a player they are getting. Getting so much time to recover the Achilles isn’t a bad thing – but if you are a team hard-pressed for time and trying to impress your superstar to stay, you need the second-best guy on the team to produce right away. It would be unfair to Wall not to give him time to readjust to the NBA. Time the Rockets may not have. 

Rockets fans

I gotta give a shoutout to Rockets fans everywhere who are having a complete meltdown. In 2019, the Rockets traded Chris Paul (who had a stellar season), two picks and two pick swaps for Westbrook. A year later, they traded Westbrook for Wall, who didn’t play for two years after the worst injury in basketball and a heavily protected first-round pick. Considering what Sam Presti traded CP3 for, this what the asset management comparison looks like on December 3rd, 2020. 

  • Thunder – a year of vintage Chris Paul (mentorship and leadership included), Rockets 2024 & 2026 first-round picks (1-4 protected), pick swaps in 2021 and 2025, Ty Jerome, Trevor Ariza, TJ Leaf, Justin Jackson, Suns 2022 first-round pick, Warriors’ protected 2021 first-round pick, and Denver’s 2021 second-round pick.
  • Rockets – John Wall, heavily protected Wizards 2023 first-round pick,  Christian Wood, and a protected Blazers 2021 first-round pick. 

Wood and the Blazers pick are the results of trading away Capela to make Westbrook a useful player. (Capela -> Covington -> Ariza and picks -> Wood and pick.) Daryl Morey said he’ll always be able to make moves as long as there are “7 stupid GMs in the league.” Sam Presti agrees. 

According to all accounts, Morey and D’Antoni were against the Westbrook trade but were overruled by Tilman “Shut up and listen” Fertitta. Morey should amend his rule to “7 stupid GMs and/or owners in the league. 

Conclusion

Look, at least both teams are giving it a shot. According to Woj, the teams didn’t talk about the deal for weeks and then got it done yesterday ina matter of hours. I suppose both GMs turned every rock to find a better deal and realized there was no better deal out there for either side.

I don’t like it for any team, but it was the logical thing to do. They knew the status quo wasn’t working. Why the hell not.