The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards have struck a blockbuster swap of point guards on Wednesday night. The Rockets have agreed to send PG Russell Westbrook to the Wizards in exchange for PG John Wall and a first-round pick, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The two GM's -- Washington's Tommy Sheppard and Houston's Rafael Stone -- hadn't talked in weeks on the deal, but connected this afternoon and had a deal done within a few hours, sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/qmuPclNoU5— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 3, 2020
This is a bit of a crazy deal. The Rockets are essentially taking on one of the worst contracts in the NBA in Wall while giving up Westbrook, a former MVP who is arguably in his prime. Houston gets back a first-round pick, but that likely won’t come close to returning value on Westbrook.
Does this also mean that James Harden is going to be the next to leave Houston? We’ll wait and see. It also doesn’t help that Wall is coming off a major Achilles injury and is one of the more one-dimensional point guards in the NBA. According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, the Rockets are adamant on keeping Harden and trying to be competitive with him, and two former Kentucky teammates who have both suffered severe Achilles injuries...
Rockets source: Stance on James Harden has not changed. Houston hopes to be competitive with him this season and does not envision a scenario where Harden would be traded before the opener.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 3, 2020
Here are some details on the protections on the first-round pick, via Shams Charania:
Sources: Protection on the first-round pick that the Wizards traded to Houston in Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade: 2023, Lottery; 2024, Top 12; 2025, Top 10; 2026, Top 8; then becomes two second-rounders.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 3, 2020
So if we take a look at the contracts, they pretty much match up. Westbrook is signed through the next two seasons with a player option for 2022-23. He’s set to make $41 million this season, $43 million next season, and $46 million in the option year. As for Wall, again, pretty similar. He’s making $40 million this season, $43 million next season, and almost $47 million in 2022-23 — also a player option. This is likely why the deal was agreed to: It’s just super simple for both sides and apparently makes both players happy after each wanted a trade.
Another big factor for Westbrook is the Scott Brooks connection, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. Brooks is the head coach of the Wizards and was coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-2015. He coached Westbrook for eight seasons before leaving OKC and heading to D.C.
Westbrook was acquired by the Rockets and then GM Daryl Morey in the Chris Paul trade with OKC. Houston envisioned a backcourt of Westbrook and Harden competing for a title, but it never came to fruition, resulting in a second-round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the eventual champion Lakers. First Westbrook was reported as wanting a trade out and then Harden. The departure of Mike D’Antoni and then Morey likely led both players to question the direction of the franchise under new leadership.
Wall sat out the entire 2019-20 season and hasn’t played since 2019 for the Wizards before rupturing his Achilles. The All-Star guard has said he feels great and is ready to get back to work this season. That could mean on a lame-duck Rockets team if Harden bolts. Wall’s game was always built upon his speed and ability to make plays off the dribble. Who knows how that will work out after a major Achilles injury. Wall can’t shoot and doesn’t really make sense with Harden (sort of like how Westbrook never made sense next to Harden).