Just before 8 PM EST, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a bomb. The Houston Rockets are sending star PG Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a lottery-protected first-round pick (that runs until 2026, if Washington makes the playoffs every year until 2026, it becomes two second-round picks). It was rumored a few weeks ago that this would be a possibility from Shams Charnia of the Athletic, but the deal fell apart as Houston was looking to “acquire more assets” in a Westbrook deal. Here’s how I see the trade from all sides:
John Wall: It was time for a fresh start for both sides. John has not played since December 2018, coming off a torn Achilles, mixed with the combination of the amount of money he is still owed on his contract he signed in 2017, I think it was time for both sides to move on from each other. He now gets a fresh start in Houston, where he gets to play with possibly the best scorer in the NBA in James Harden and he is reunited with his college roommate Demarcus Cousins.
Washington Wizards: I personally think the Wizards were willing to try the Bradley Beal/John Wall duo for one more season, but with the recent video of John in New York of him supposedly throwing up gang signs, owner Ted Leonsis was not willing to have his highest-paid player, the face of his franchise, seen this way. It’s no secret that his nickname is “gang sign John Wall”, but when you aren’t on the floor and you’re causing problems off the court, it’s not so easy for the higher up’s within the organization to let things like this pass. D.C. now gets a player who will not be in any off-court drama, will change the culture of the organization, and create a hardworking, no days off mindset within the organization. This move does not move Washington into the conversation of teams like Brooklyn, Miami or Boston, but this move makes them a tougher out than before the move.
Russell Westbrook: The Westbrook/Harden experiment did not work in Houston. It was never going to work. The last time these two were on the same team, Westbrook was just selected to his first all-star team, and James Harden was just voted the NBA’s 6th man of the year, and this was with Kevin Durant as the team’s best player in OKC. Westbrook now gets to play with Bradley Beal, coming off his career year, averaging 30 points per game, is reunited with his former head coach Scott Brooks, and is now with an organization that is on the rise.
Houston Rockets: No more Chris Paul, no more Russell Westbrook, no more Clint Capela, or Mike D’Antoni, where does Houston go from here? James Harden is still there, but for how much longer? Are talks of him going to Brooklyn still happening? They have zero draft capital after trading it all away to acquire Russell Westbrook, where is the upside? They signed guys like Demarcus Cousins and Christian Woods, but where does this place them among the Western Conference? Wall and Cousins have played a combined 151 games since the start of the 2017-18 season, and both have had major Achilles and knee injuries, so what do they expect to get out of them? What is their long term plan?