The Houston Rockets agreed to a trade to send Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 protected first-round pick, first reported by ESPN NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
In November, reports leaked out that Westbrook wanted out of Houston, with sources saying the 32-year-old was uneasy about the team’s accountability and culture and he had a desire to have a similar floor-general role he had in Oklahoma City. With Westbrook being owed $132.6 million over the next three years, it was obvious a trade would be inevitable.
With this trade, Westbrook gets his wish. Landing on a team where he will handle the ball more, and be the lone point guard playing alongside Bradley Beal. Think of the arrangement similar to that of when Westbrook played with Paul George in OKC.
Wall was selected first overall by the Wizards in the 2010 NBA Draft. He’s a five-time All-Star (2014-2018), was third-team All-NBA in 2017 and second-team all-defense in 2015. During his time with Washington, he had been the face of the franchise, leading them to success when healthy. But health has failed him in recent years.
Wall hasn’t played since Dec. 26, 2018 after having heel surgery and then suffering a ruptured Achilles. In his 32 games played in the 2018-2019 season, he averaged 20.7 points, 7.7 field goals and 8.7 assists per game while hitting 30.2 percent from 3-point range.
Wall is entering the second year of a four-year, $171.1 million extension signed in July of 2017, which includes a player option in 2022-23.
What does this mean for the Wizards and Westbrook?
The Washington Wizards have had a hyped backcourt for the past few years when Beal and Wall were healthy. Replace Wall with Westbrook and the hype goes to the next level. Both Beal and Westbrook have averaged 30 points a game before. The two will have to learn to play together — just as Wall and Beal tried to but never quite perfected.
It may be easier since Westbrook is reunited with his first NBA Head Coach Scott Brooks. The pair made the NBA Finals back in 2012 with the OKC Thunder. Brooks knows how to construct an offense featuring two star scorers, so maybe the fit isn’t such a hard one to blend.
The Wizards had to make a move with Beal set to hit free agency after the season. By acquiring Westbrook, the hope it is enough to show Beal that they are willing to do the best to surround him with quality talent going forward. Maybe after a year with Westbrook, and returning to the playoffs will have Beal sign the max extension.
What does this mean for the Rockets and Harden?
This could go one of two ways for Harden.
Houston has always been committed to mending things with Harden, where it seemed less adamant on smoothing things with Westbrook. Harden has been the face of the franchise for nearly a decade and hasn’t shown signs of slowing down, it makes sense on why the Rockets would want to hold onto him.
The Rockets hoped to be competitive with the perennial MVP candidate on the roster this season and does not envision a scenario in which Harden would be traded before the opener. The Rockets have let it be known that they would require a return that included a young, potential franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package in any potential deal for Harden
Harden and Wall have a good relationship, but is he the player that will convince Harden to stay?
The Rockets could have made this move in a vacuum, not considering whether or not Harden is still in the long term plans. They simply wanted to send off Westbrook. It would be irresponsible to make a block buster move like this without first knowing where Harden’s head is at, but this is the NBA where things move fast.
Harden could still want out, and this time go public with his request, making it impossible to mend issues with the franchise. Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and just about any NBA team will wait and listen on James Harden, but the clock is ticking. The season is less than a month away and a team trying to integrate a player of Harden’s caliber and ball dominate style is tough to do without a training camp.