John Wall was traded for Russell Westbrook. If we assume that Wall will return to his previous form after two seasons on the mend, then most people would consider the trade a wash. Wall is a five-time All-star with incredible scoring abilities. At full health, Wall’s athleticism has few equals in the game.
Westbrook, in his prime, would be one of those comparable athletes. With the uncertainty that Wall can regain his previously explosive form and questions surrounding Westbrook as his offensive efficiency continues to decline each season, both of these players are at a crossroads.
Best case scenario for Wall is that he returns to his multi-dimensional and dominant self. History suggests that Wall could still be an All-Star contributor, but at age 30, his best days are probably behind him. With the best ability being “availability, ” trading a recovering superstar (Wall) for an aging superstar (Westbrook) who seems indifferent towards winning a championship isn’t ideal for Washington.
Westbrook is, however, durable, having played 80 or more games in seven of his first 11 seasons in the league. Wall has played 82 games just once in 9 NBA seasons.
Are Rockets getting the same John Wall?
On December 29, 2019, franchise star John Wall was ruled out for the rest of the season with a left heel injury. After initially undergoing season-ending surgery on his left heel that January, Wall developed an infection in the incision from that surgery, then suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon when he fell in his home.
As Bradley Beal continued to show he was a superstar-caliber player and Wall was rehabbing, Washington made a decision to commit to Beal as their franchise player. Wall wasn’t feeling that and he was more than happy to be traded, much to the disappointment of Wizards fans who had an emotional connection with Wall and anxiously anticipated his return. They were also smitten about possibly reclaiming the title of “Best NBA Backcourt”.
Via USA Today: “…it’s hard to characterize Wall’s decade in Washington, which began with his selection at No. 1 overall in the 2010 NBA draft, as anything but a success. Wall, 30, played nine seasons in D.C., averaging 19.0 points and 9.2 assists on 43.3% shooting in 35.9 minutes per game. He was a five-time All-Star and made one All-NBA third team and one All-Defensive second team.
During that time, Wall also became well known for his extensive community work in and around Washington, DC.”
At one time, it was Beal on the trading block. Wall’s injury changed that.
It will be a huge culture shift for DC fans, but they won’t lack energy and electricity with Westbrook in the building.
Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards are getting after it at practice 🥶 a lot of communication and talking pic.twitter.com/EabtDAL2Sa
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) December 8, 2020
What About The Problems In Houston?
With the drama surrounding James Harden and his desire to leave Houston before his contract expires, Wall is walking into a contentious situation. We aren’t privy to his personal relationship with Wall, but Harden’s trade demand lets us know that The Beard has no problem relinquishing the reins in Houston. In other words, there’s no personal desire for Harden to team up with Wall. Westbrook, on the other hand, was supposedly his guy, but that didn’t really work out.
All that experiment did was cause more questions and criticisms about Harden’s style of play. And whether or not it was conducive to winning a championship. Once Mike D’Antoni departed and Daryl Morey took $10M per to become the President of the Sixers, the writing was on the wall that a major overhaul was coming in Houston.
There’s drama over there. Russ is surely glad to be gone. Harden says he wants to get traded to the Brooklyn Nets to form a superteam with former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He’s also mentioned the Sixers.
Even with Kevin Durant's recent comments of the rumors being made up, Brooklyn Nets fans can't help themselves but daydream about a Big Three with him, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden.
— Concrete New York 🗽 (@concretenewyork) December 2, 2020
Houston says they’ll be damned.
The Rockets have been adamant that they will not be rushed into trading Harden, regardless of how uncomfortable the situation has become with the three-time scoring champion failing to report to training camp while partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas.
So Wall is definitely stepping into the unknown. He’ll be playing for a team in turmoil, but probably a squad better than the one he would have returned to in Washington. Right now, he’s hoping Harden stays.
Among Wall’s comments:
Me and James had a great talk since I’ve been traded here. We’ve been friends way before this. What’s going on right now, it’s because of the testing protocol, and things like that. We’re gonna figure out what’s the best decision when he wants to get here, and be here. We’ve been on the same page since I’ve been traded here.
While Harden is still chasing a ring, Westbrook seems to have conceded in the chase. The Wizards have talent but don’t rank among the NBA’s championship-contending teams. The hiring of Stephen Silas is expected to create a new culture in Houston that pays respect to defensive principles. Harden’s not keen on sticking around to indulge.
With so much left unproven, the trade is a wash right now. We’ll have to see how that first-round pick Houston got from Washington materializes. In many ways, Wall and Westbrook are very similar. Both potentially great players making fresh starts on transitioning squads and possessing more personal questions than answers entering the 2021 season.