The Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards have swapped disgruntled superstar point guards John Wall and Russell Westbrook in a deal that also saw a protected 2023 first-round pick headed to Houston, the teams announced on Wednesday afternoon.
There had been rumors bubbling around this deal for some time and it would seem that both players wanted it to happen as well. The trade talks between new Houston general manager Rafael Stone and Washington general manager Tommy Shepard had reportedly been stalled since mid-November until finally the two got on the wire on Tuesday and worked out the deal in a matter of hours, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The first-round pick is, however, lottery-protected for the Wiz. If the pick doesn’t convey in 2023 it gets pushed to 2024 where it will be protected from picks 1-12, then from picks 1-10 if it’s pushed to 2025, and 1-8 if it’s pushed again to 2026. If the draft choice isn’t conveyed as a first-rounder for Houston by 2026, it turns into second-round picks in 2026 and 2027, sources told Wojnarowski.
It was a deal that made sense for both sides, as the franchises currently find themselves in very similar predicaments: hoping that the new point guard they’re bringing in can help convince their unhappy superstar shooting guards (Bradley Beal in D.C., James Harden in Houston) to stay where they are.
The swap is unlikely to have much effect on next year’s run to the NBA championship, however, with Betway and other sportsbooks far from considering the Rockets (+3,000 odds) or the Wizards (+15,000 odds) true contenders this year.
Though Harden has privately asked the Rockets for a trade (specifically to the Nets, sources have said) Houston has maintained that they have no intention of trading the former MVP before the start of the season and expect to put out a contending team led by Harden next season. If they were to part with Harden, the Rockets would want a young, franchise player on top of a treasure trove of picks, according to sources.
The Rockets are hoping that the third time’s the charm as they pair Harden with Wall following Houston’s failures with the Chris Paul and Westbrook experiments. It was Harden and Westbrook that campaigned to get Russ in Houston last offseason in a deal that was truly awful in hindsight.
In his one year with Houston, Westbrook, 32, was named an All-Star and to the All-NBA Third Team as he put up 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per game on a career-high 47 percent shooting mark from the field in 57 contests.
Unfortunately, what seemed to be a promising season for the 2017 NBA MVP was derailed by issues later in the campaign that included arriving in the NBA bubble late as well as quad problems that cost him four playoff games. Westbrook was not the same after he was forced to rush back from his quad injury, putting up just 17.9 points and 4.6 assists on 42 percent shooting in the playoffs.
Westbrook is still due the mammoth sum of $133 million over the next three years, the third of which is a player option. The Long Beach native has racked up nine All-Star appearances and nine All-NBA selections throughout an illustrious career that also includes scoring titles in 2015 and 2017 and assist titles in 2018 and 2019. The 12-year veteran is also the only player other than Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double in a season, doing it thrice in a row at the end of his time in Oklahoma City.
Of the two teams, it would seem that the Rockets have the best chance to make some noise in the playoffs after the trade. Wall, 30, was once considered one of the most athletic and potent point guards in the league, serving as half of what many believed would be the next great backcourt alongside Beal for several years.
Now, after two full seasons off due to achilles and knee injuries, Wall will make his return to the hardwood as part of another dynamic backcourt pairing alongside the Beard. The Raleigh native is owed just a smidge less than Westbrook, at $132 million over the next three seasons, but he is a couple of years younger, and from the videos we’ve seen of Wall this offseason, his injuries have seemingly not stolen his trademark explosiveness and quickness from him just yet.