The NBA off-season is always primed to deliver some shocking news, and we got another dose this past Tuesday. With the free agency and trading buzz pretty quiet for more than a week, the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards suddenly decided to kill the silence.
What added to the surprise was the majority thought the Russell Westbrook-John Wall trade was already dead in the water after it fell through just a week prior. As it turns out, it was just building momentum like any other trade normally does, and all it needed was a good conversation between the two general managers.
The swap is still puzzling for a lot of us. It actually looked like it came straight out of the NBA 2K trade finder.
For the Rockets, though, who knew that their All-Star point guard, Russell Westbrook, wanted to be traded, it was really simple. John Wall was their guy for the position they’re in.
Here’s Fred Katz of The Athletic sharing a scoop surrounding the trade talks:
“During the course of Houston’s trade talks around the league, John Wall was singled out as the most intriguing option on the market. The Rockets had no interest in a major downgrade, as that would defeat the purpose of smoothing things over with Harden and might also signal a rebuild. They may be parting with a former MVP (Russell Westbrook) in the trade, but they still consider Wall a high-upside acquisition — as long as he can stay healthy.”
Much of the trade’s criticism among fans is that both players now have varying iffy reputations, and it’s a bit confusing if one can really improve from the change.
While Westbrook is just three years removed from capturing league MVP, and is still a bona fide stat-stuffer, he’s consistently failed in the postseason – in some years, he performed in the magnified stage. For context, he only has one playoff series win ever since Kevin Durant left in 2016.
Wall, meanwhile, has dozens of question marks regarding his health. He hasn’t played in an NBA game since he ruptured his Achilles tendon in December 2018, and also had a couple of serious injuries prior to that.
Then, there’s also the likeness in playing style. Like Westbrook, Wall isn’t a reliable jump shooter and needs to be ball dominant to be truly effective. Those aren’t the ingredients you’d particularly want to mix alongside James Harden, who needs the ball all the time.
The only encouraging factor – at least for now – is things will be refreshed. Harden and the Rockets’ returning core will be under a new system with first-year coach, Stephen Silas, while the new star point guard, will be reuniting with his college teammate and friend, DeMarcus Cousins. If things go well, we may see a pretty entertaining, well-oiled group.