The Washington Wizards missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons, finishing a combined 57-97. Much of the struggles can be attributed to the absence of John Wall for all but the first 32 games in 2018-2019 due to a ruptured Achilles tendon. In fact, the injury bug has plagued Wall, who also missed half of the 2017-2018 with a knee injury.
On December 2, 2020, the Wizards traded the 30-year-old John Wall in addition to a first-round pick in 2023 to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook. The 32-year-old Westbrook played his first 11 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but reportedly wanted to leave Houston. Russell Westbrook averaged 27 points, 7.9 rebounds and seven assists per game, but was playing with a quad injury during the games in the bubble. In addition, he tested positive for Covid-19, making the total bubble experience a nightmare for the nine-time All-Star.
The trade makes sense for both teams and participants. In fact, Westbrook has a long history with Wizards coach Scott Brooks. Russell Westbrook will team with 30 point-per-game scorer last season and two-time All-Star Bradley Beal to form one of the top back courts in the NBA. While Wall is an outstanding player, his uncertain status due to injury issues had to play a role in the Wizards dealing him. Westbrook’s presence should immediately put the Wizards back into playoff contention.
With the addition of several free agencies and the trade for John Wall, the Rockets roster is taking form under new head coach Stephen Silas. One of the free agent signings was DeMarcus Cousins, who Wall played with during his collegiate days in Kentucky and have known each other since the age of 14. After missing much of the last three seasons due to injury, teaming with James Harden in the Houston back court is a new beginning for Wall, who averaged 20.7 points per game in 2018-2019 and 19 per game for his career.
The trade appears to be a win-win for both teams, assuming Wall comes back completely from his torn Achilles tendon. At age 30, John Wall should still be in the prime of his career and not needing the ball as much as Westbrook, could be a better fit for the Rockets in the long run. Russell Westbrook can play multiple positions on both ends of the court. He will likely play without Beal on the court at times, and vice versa, giving the Wizards more versatility than they had in the past.
I believe the Wizards will get the most out of the deal in the end simply because they have a much farther hill to climb. Houston Rockets have won three consecutive division titles and advanced at least to the conference semi-finals each season. Washington Wizards have not made the playoffs since the 2017-2108 when they fell in the first round and haven’t reached the conference finals since they were the Bullets back in 1978-1979.