Rockets trade Westbrook to Wizards for Wall, first-round pick

Marc Stein joined Sportsnet Central to talk about the blockbuster trade that sees Russell Westbrook headed to the Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a first-round pick to the Rockets, and discusses how this affects James Harden's situation.

The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a first-round pick.

Per The Athletic‘s Shams Charania, the pick is for 2023 and the protection on it is as follows: 2023, lottery; 2024, top 12; 2025, top 10; 2026, top 8; thereafter becomes two second-rounders.

In recent weeks, both point guards expressed their displeasure with their now-former franchises. Westbrook, having spent a single season on the Rockets after being traded for Chris Paul in the summer of 2019, asked out following a report that he and James Harden were concerned about Houston’s future (and following their second-round ousting at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in six games).

As for Wall, he also reportedly asked to be dealt with the new season (and his first on-court appearance in about two years) looming large.

This deal had reportedly been discussed back on Nov. 17, and was one of the very few viable options each franchise had, not only in terms of functional salary matching (both Westbrook and Wall are on contracts of just over $41 million), but also in the attempt to acquire more value than what was being sent out, which is, of course, the goal in any trade.

For the Wizards, they acquire an all-star level player who, unlike the outgoing party, is a sure thing to suit up for the majority of his games and will likely push them to a playoff seed. The move also acts as a placative pitch to their current star, Bradley Beal, whom Washington would evidently like to keep around long-term.

Houston gets a potential all-star talent in Wall, the sort which was worth banking on considering the alternatives, and draft compensation that could help them significantly down the road depending on how Washington’s future pans out.

Should Wall return as something resembling his former self, the Rockets may also hope that his arrival will help them mollify things with Harden, who himself has reportedly asked to be traded away to the Brooklyn Nets.

While a deal like this (trading a known all-star quantity, albeit an unhappy one, for an unknown one and a future pick) may appear to signal a complete overhaul for a team that has had tectonic-level shifting take place this past off-season, the Rockets’ stance on Harden has reportedly not changed, and they will look to enter the season with him on the roster.

Best case, the Rockets will surprise, Harden’s mood will change, and there will be no need to make a second blockbuster deal. At worst, the team will flounder, Harden’s mood will sour further, and pressure will increase to make something happen. Even in that latter case, however, the Rockets will still hold all the cards, as Harden is locked under contract for three more years including this one, and his market value (unlike Westbrook’s) is extremely high.

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