NBA: Why The Westbrook/Wall Trade Has No Winners And Losers

It’s been over a week since the biggest trade of the 2020 NBA free agency happened, a straight swap of point guards, Russell Westbrook moved to the Washington Wizards while John Wall went the other way to the Houston Rockets.

And while none of that is news anymore, fans, analysts and pretty much anyone with an interest in NBA basketball are still trying to figure out which of the two teams involved got the better deal.

In straight swaps like this, most people just look at the players individually, pick who the better player is and decide which franchise won the trade from there, if we’re going by that logic, then the Wizards won the trade.

Washington Wizards gave out 5-time all star, injury-prone John Wall and replaced him with a 9-time all star, former MVP and just straight up better point guard in Russell Westbrook, that should mean they won the trade easily, but it’s never that straightforward.

There’s a lot more to consider: how both players fit into their new teams, what they could potentially offer in the near future rather than what they have achieved in the past, and most importantly how they improve the team, which is where this trade becomes far more even.

It’s safe to say Russell Westbrook’s time in Houston did not go according to plan; a Westbrook/Harden backcourt seemed like a good idea at first, they certainly looked dangerous on paper, but on the court it was a different story.

Rockets’ dream backcourt duo never got going

James Harden is and has always been the primary ball handler for the Rockets while Westbrook had the same role in Oklahoma, so it was difficult for the latter to learn to play mostly without the ball, made even more difficult because Westbrook is a poor shooter.

Russell’s time in Houston was summed up by the playoffs last year, even though he did quite well in the regular season where he averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists per game, his playoff numbers were in stark contrast.

Westbrook’s points per game dropped drastically in the playoffs to 17.9, the first time he has averaged less than 20 points per game in his playoffs career while averaging 4.6 assists and 7 rebounds per game.

Westbrook’s averages dropped drastically in Houston

His 3-point percentage dropped to 24%, from his normal 30% range and he only managed to make just over 50% of his free throws, a massive slump from the minimum of 80% which he shot from the foul line in each of his 9 playoff campaigns with Oklahoma city thunder.

This trade solves the chemistry issues immediately, Harden, if he does stay in Houston, gets a new point guard who’s comfortable being the second option on a team and shoots well in John Wall, while Westbrook immediately becomes the best basketball player in Washington upon his arrival.

The Wizards have a solid group of young players already in or just approaching their prime, and all they needed was a leader, which John Wall could not be because he was always injured, which is where Russell Westbrook fits in perfectly.

Bradley Beal leads a solid crop of young players at the Wizards

If Russ can regain his best form, he immediately transforms the Wizards from a struggling franchise to playoff contenders, with the help of Bradley Beal as his new backcourt partner, Rui Hachimura and the numerous pick plays and lobs to be run with Thomas Bryant, the Wizards are gonna be fun to watch.

That may not be as easy as it looks, even though Brodie is still as energetic as ever, and there’s no doubt he will give his all everytime he steps on the court, the game seems to be leaving him behind.

We are well and truly in the 3-point era of NBA basketball, a large percentage of the best offensive players in the league are Guards who can shoot, something you can’t say about Westbrook whose percentage from beyond the arc is hovering around 30%.

It won’t matter much if he can get his overall game back to its previous glory, no other player in the league right now has ever averaged a triple double in a season, Brodie has done it 3 times, a testament to the kind of player Washington are getting.

As for John Wall, the big question is can he stay fit, especially after his battles with foot injuries in the past three years, and if he does stay fit, can he still play at the same level he was at before the injuries happened.

Can Wall regain his lightening-quick pace after two years out injured?

The injuries were foot injuries so it’s expected that Wall may not be the lightning-quick player he was few years ago, but he can still be a very useful player for the Rockets, there’s a reason he’s been an all star on 5 different occasions with a career average of 19 points and 9.2 assists per game, big time numbers from a big time player.

If he and James Harden can hit it off immediately, then the Rockets could be formidable, especially since he already has a strong relationship with fellow new signing, DeMarcus Cousins, meaning he could settle in quickly.

It’s worth pointing out that even though this trade seems balanced and fair now, it might not look like that in a few years, hindsight has consistently been proven as the best kind of sight.

For example, when the San Antonio Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan in 2018, it seemed like a fair trade at the time, but has since proven otherwise, Kawhi won the Raptors a championship in his only year there, while DeRozan is yet to make a real impact in his two years in San Antonio.

Kawhi led the Raptors to the NBA Championship in 2019
..his replacement DeMar is yet to set pulses alight at Spurs

The point is the debate about who won the trade could go on and on, but there’s only one real way to prove it, and that is with time.