Details on John Wall’s exit from the Wizards

Wizards point guard John Wall dribbles upcourt vs. the Knicks.

John Wall is heading to Houston, though the trade for Russell Westbrook was not an easy one for the Wizards to make.

Executives around the league believed it would be extremely difficult for the Wizards to trade Wall prior to the deal coming to fruition, as I explained on the Desktop GM podcast.  Wall’s contract was seen as a significant barrier to a trade, though uncertainty surrounding his willingness to take on a lesser role than he was accustomed to pre-injury (though Wall had been saying the right things in media interviews) and the video of him flashing gang signs at a party over the summer lingered in the minds of evaluators.

“Wall’s contract carried so much risk, I expected [Washington] to give up more in the deal,” one Western Conference scout tells me regarding the compensation that the Wizards sent to the Rockets (a 2023 lottery-protected first-rounder).

It took a unique situation, where another star on a similarly gargantuan salary wanted to be moved, to get the trade completed. The Wizards and Rockets had been in contact about a Russell Westbrook-Wall trade earlier this fall. While some around the league believed the point guard swap would eventually happen closer to the yet-to-be-determined trade deadline after Wall had a chance to showcase his skill post-recovery, Westbrook opting not to report to Houston’s training camp accelerated the timeline.

There were whispers that Bradley Beal, whose long-term future remains of the highest priority to Washington’s front office, was intrigued by the potential of sharing a backcourt with Westbrook prior to the trade and made his opinion known to some within the organization.

Wall reportedly welcomed the trade to Houston and Westbrook wanted his next stop to be Washington, per Michael Lee of The Washington Post. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, James Harden preferred Wall to Westbrook. It appears all the stars involved are on board with their new running mate.


Rockets Gearing Up For Gap-Year Season?

It’s no secret that Houston is operating in a cash-conscious state. Like many businesses, owner Tim Fertitta’s gaming and dining establishments were hit hard during the pandemic. His NBA team will likely remain profitable despite the lack of fans in the arena. However, going into the luxury tax this season was just out of the question—something that may have been necessary to make significant upgrades on a team that lost in the second round of the bubble playoffs.

While the Wall trade doesn’t in itself save the Rockets financially, the series of moves the front office made over the offseason point toward a strategy that doesn’t put Houston’s best foot forward during the 2020/21 season. The team unloaded Robert Covington for Trevor Ariza and a pair of picks, only to trade the No. 16 overall pick (Isaiah Stewart) from that deal to the Pistons in the Christian Wood sign-and-trade. Wood is generally regarded as an up-and-coming player, though he’s far from a proven commodity.

The Rockets also signed DeMarcus Cousins earlier this offseason and both he and Wall will have their minutes restricted initially, if not all season. It wouldn’t be surprising for Houston to play this year very conservatively with regard to overexerting Harden, having them be very cautious with their superstar, and treating the season like a gap year, similarly to how the Warriors expected the 2019/20 season to play out.

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