On Dec. 2, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped an unexpected bomb. The award-winning NBA Insider reported that the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards agreed to a deal that sends Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick. The move comes weeks after a wave of stories detailing discontent within Houston’s locker room.
Houston has agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to Washington for John Wall and a first-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 3, 2020
On Nov. 11, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Westbrook requested a trade from Houston. The former MVP point guard only spent one season with the Rockets and former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden before deciding to look for a new home. The request came shortly after Houston moved on from head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey.
In return for the 32-year-old, nine-time All-Star, Houston gets Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round selection. If the pick is successfully protected in 2023, it maintains a series of safeguards until becoming second-round selections in 2026 and 2027. Meanwhile, Wall hasn’t played in an NBA game since Dec. 26, 2018.
Before suffering a string of injuries, including a ruptured Achilles tendon, Wall made five consecutive All-Star games. An All-NBA 3rd Team point guard in 2016-17, Wall was one of the NBA’s best playmakers. He challenged Chris Paul for assist titles in the mid-2010s and even earned an All-Defensive selection in 2014-15. The Rockets hope Wall returns to form in 2020 and keeps their franchise in the playoff race.
More importantly, Houston hopes Wall’s arrival will please Harden. The future Hall of Fame shooting guard made it known he’s not happy with the Rockets this offseason, even reportedly requesting a trade. While the Rockets didn’t mind sending Westbrook away, they remain committed to their franchise player. Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that line of thought hasn’t changed.
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
Harden is under contract for at least two more seasons and has a player option for the 2022-23 season. He’ll make over $41 million in base salary this year.
The Wizards also had something to gain from the Wall trade. Washington hopes to please star shooting guard Bradley Beal. The 27-year-old joined Washington as the third overall pick in 2012. He served as the Robin to Wall’s Batman for the first several years of his career. However, Beal developed into a superstar over the past four seasons.
The Florida product made All-Star games in two of the past three years and even scored 30.5 points per game last season. Beal also played all 82 games during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, showing a level of durability Wall can’t match. Rather than risk their two stars butting heads as Wall returned to his former role, the Wizards decided to make a play for Westbrook and bank on him co-existing with Beal.
Beal is a free agent after this coming season, while Westbrook has two more years on his deal plus a player option for the 2022-23 season.
This trade provides fresh starts for Wall and Westbrook, who experienced their own frustrations over the past several seasons. Westbrook rejoins his former coach Scott Brooks, while Wall gets a fresh start to his career after a disappointing end to his time in Washington. The Rockets and Wizards also get one final chance to convince their superstar players to stick around.