A while ago, Russell Westbrook requested to be traded, and now his wish has been granted.
The former MVP will be taking his talents to Washington after being swapped for John Wall and a protected 2023 first-round pick.
Money-wise, the deal makes sense. Westbrook and Wall have almost identical yearly salaries, and both of their deals expire at the end of the 2022-23 season. Houston doesn’t take back any additional contract years, and that would have been important for owner Tilman Fertitta – who doesn’t seem to have any interest in investing more money into the team.
Does Wall make sense for the Rockets?
Basketball-wise, it starts to get a bit murkier. While Wall was once an unbelievable blend of speed, skill, and aggressiveness. However, the last few years have seen him deal with knee injuries and then a ruptured left Achilles tendon.
Wall hasn’t suited up since December 26, 2018. That’s got to be a cause of worry for Rockets fans. He may have only turned 30 this year, but speedy guards that deal with major lower leg injuries are always a risk.
However, at his best, Wall is a captivating player capable of electrifying plays on a nightly basis.
If the Rockets get something resembling that guy, then good things may be on a horizon.
It’s also important to note that Rockets cornerstone James Harden did also request a trade (and turned down a whopping $100 million extension), though management continues to say that he will not be traded before the opening game of the season.
You never know, though, and you might still see Harden move in a blockbuster trade to somewhere like Brooklyn. If that happens, Rockets fans are going to have a hard time dealing with the loss of The Beard.
At the very least, Wall will be seeing a familiar face on the Rockets. He’ll be teaming up with DeMarcus Cousins, his former Kentucky teammate and another player trying to come back and be effective after major injuries.
Can Westbrook succeed in Washington?
Westbrook is no stranger to small market teams. After all, he spent the majority of his career in Oklahoma City, where he was giving free rein to run a team. He certainly maximized the Thunder’s potential, especially after Kevin Durant left for the Warriors, but he hasn’t shown the ability to lead a team to the Finals.
To be fair, Westbrook will be teaming up with Bradley Beal, a talented star in his own right and a recipient of one of the most undeserved All-Star snubs in recent memory.
The problem I see is that Westbrook will still want to be ball-dominant. He and Harden had brief flashes of looking like they’d be able to work well together and share the ball, but Wetstbrook reverted back to his selfish ways in key moments of the series against the Lakers, hoisting up ill-advised threes and playing hero ball.
At the age of 32, it doesn’t look like the triple-double master is going to be able to change his ways. As age continues to sap him of his athleticism, Westbrook could become more and more of a liability. The remaining three years of his contract will pay him over $130 million – tying up money and cap space for Washington.
Another worry for the Wizards is that Beal’s contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season. It’s highly doubtful that he would want to waste the rest of his prime years on a rebuilding team or a fringe contender.
With all these factors taken into account, it doesn’t really feel like there’s a clear winner in the trade. In fact, it feels like neither team moved the needle at all by swapping the two max contract players.