Wednesday night, The Washington Wizards traded franchise cornerstone John Wall and a 2023 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for MVP guard Russell Westbrook.
To analyze this trade, we have to consider how this trade impacts the following.
1. The Basketball Court
2. The Fanbase
Before getting into the emotional impact, it’s time to look at how this move changes the way the team plays the game of basketball.
To keep this first part short and sweet, Westbrook’s domination of the basketball puts the fit in jeopardy in Washington, and while Wall’s pass-first mentality fits anywhere, we have yet to see him cede touches and play a bit more off the ball.
Due to injuries, Wall has not seen the floor in roughly two years. Assuming Wall produces similarly to when we last saw him—even when healthy, he is not the player Russell Westbrook is.
On almost a daily basis, you can pull up Twitter and see someone blaspheming about the abilities of Westbrook. However, he is more than capable of propelling a 25-win, ninth-seeded team in the East this past season into the playoff picture.
His skill set, albeit similar to Wall’s, is separated by his higher motor. Wall plays hard, but no basketball player brings more heart to the floor than Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook brings his best effort every night and expects the same for his teammates, and if you’ve watched the Wizards over the years, you understand that one of the biggest knocks on this team is that they often play down to the talent level of lesser opponents. Talk about his intensity all you want, but you know he isn’t holding back against anybody.
In Washington, Westbrook will be one of the primary paint attackers and will either draw extra defenders off the Wizards shooters or have an easier time in the lane—something that worked well in Houston.
One thing absent in Houston for Westbrook was coach Scott Brooks. This trade allows for the two to unite for the first time since their Oklahoma City Thunder days. The ceiling for their success is lower than it was in OKC when you saw the pair maximize one another, along with the talent of Kevin Durant and James Harden as they reached the 2012 NBA Finals.
However, in 2020 The Wizards are Beal’s team, adding Westbrook solidifies the starting five, and when coupled with the development of Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, plus the re-signing of the Latvian marksman Davis Bertans, instantly improves the team in talent, and hopefully in win total.
On Houston’s end, they get a player returning from a multitude of season-ending injuries, but also a talented guard, who is feeling “110% healthy” and looking to remake his mark in a rapidly changing league and pair with James Harden.
The Rockets are going through a makeover of their team as well, and the trade is a move that looks to appease their current superstar and potentially bring in future young talent with a first-round pick in 2023.
Fan & Community Impact
This trade hits D.C sports fans incredibly hard due to the presence that John Wall had among fans in the area. Wall has given back to the community time and time again and even became a staple within the culture, whether by showing up in Shy Glizzy videos (NSFW warning: Language) or being forever linked with Rosebar.
Regardless of what anyone thought of him, John Wall’s connection to this city was deep, and he is forever a part of the D.C community.
On the flip side, the D.C community also gets a guy who has the potential to represent the area just as well in a short time. Westbrook’s intensity on the floor represents the area well, and he is also known along with his wife Nina to be incredibly charitable and embracing of his playing community.
Adding Westbrook gives the Wizards a fighting chance to win 15-20 more games than the previous season, and Wall allows the Rockets to have a number two on the roster with a much lower usage rate.
Wall and Westbrook have roughly the same amount of money and time remaining on their contracts, but Wall has a 15% trade kicker—a trade kicker being the percentage of the salary that becomes a bonus for a player when traded.
Overall, both sides needed to make this deal. The move appeases the superstars on both sides and both teams can compete in their respective conferences.
It’s sad to see John Wall go, but at the same time, all we can do in life is pick up the pieces and keep going.
Officially, this is now a Russell Westbrook defender blog.