Report: Rockets open to trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook, draft compensation

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
Report: Rockets open to trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook, draft compensation
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

In late December, we wrote about the potential rationale for the Rockets to consider yet another trade involving highly priced guards John Wall and Russell Westbrook. Wall has not played for Houston in the 2021-22 season due to the team’s emphasis on developing younger players.

The two former All-Stars were first traded for one another in December 2020, with the Rockets landing a protected future first-round draft pick from Washington along with Wall. The high salaries of both players — at an average of more than $45 million per season through 2022-23 — made it to where a trade for the other was far more plausible than a deal elsewhere, considering the difficulties that most teams would face in finding enough disposable salary to make the math work.

Now, with Westbrook as a member of the storied Los Angeles Lakers and clearly struggling to fit in on the court, could it happen again? In the aftermath of Westbrook’s benching during the final minutes of a game earlier this week, veteran NBA insider Marc Stein reports:

I’ve learned that the Rockets — while indeed holding no interest in having Westbrook play for them again — actually would be amenable to another Westbrook-for-Wall swap if the Lakers incentivized the trade with sufficient draft compensation.

A year ago, market forces called for the team giving up Wall (Washington) to give up a protected future first-round draft pick to the team giving up Westbrook (Houston). There were two main reasons.

The first was Wall hadn’t played in the NBA in two years and was coming off an Achilles tear and subsequent complications. The second was Houston was desperate team due to James Harden’s trade request, and something needed to change to potentially salvage the relationship. It ultimately didn’t work, but given Harden’s stature as a perennial MVP front-runner, you can’t blame general manager Rafael Stone for trying. At the time, Houston had not committed to its current rebuilding path.

Today, however? The concerns related to Wall’s Achilles have largely been eliminated after a successful 2020-21 campaign in which he averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. Now, as the Lakers continue to languish around .500, they would appear to be the more desperate team, given the incentive to maximize the dwindling prime years of legendary star LeBron James — who recently turned 37 years old.

In December 2020, the Rockets reportedly saw Wall as a better fit next to Harden than Westbrook was, and it’s possible the Lakers could feel the same way about the fit next to LeBron and Anthony Davis.

It should also be noted that Wall is a client of Klutch Sports and super-agent Rich Paul, who is known for his tight relationship with LeBron. With Wall clearly wanting to play and the Feb. 10 trade deadline less than three weeks away, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Paul determines the Lakers to be his best and most realistic fit this season. If so, perhaps Paul and Klutch exert pressure on the Lakers behind the scenes.

From Houston’s perspective, it should be emphasized that there is zero incentive to trade Wall for Westbrook without a draft asset or prospect sweetener. They would not want Westbrook to actually play for them, and he would likely be released, should such a trade materialize.

The same reasons Houston isn’t playing Wall (a desire to play younger guards such as Kevin Porter Jr.) also apply to Westbrook. Unlike Wall, who has proven willing to sit out while helping his teammates, Westbrook has given no such indications. Thus, without extra compensation or Westbrook being willing to give back more money than Wall in a buyout, Houston would likely stay the course with the non-playing arrangement that it already successfully negotiated.

So, in a period of just over a year, could Stone and the Rockets somehow extract draft compensation on both ends of a Wall-Westbrook swap? Nothing appears imminent, but given the latest report by Stein, it appears to be more than just conjecture as the Feb. 10 deadline nears.

Related

Rockets trade rumors: John Wall buyout unlikely, Cavs interested in Eric Gordon

Could the Rockets execute another John Wall, Russell Westbrook trade?

List

Trade deadline data: Houston Rockets player salaries for 2021-22, future seasons