Russell Westbrook Traded to Wizards from Rockets for John Wall, 1st-Round Pick

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2020

Houston Rockets' Russell Westbrook (0) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

So much for Russell Westbrook and James Harden teaming up in Houston to win the championship that eluded them in Oklahoma City.

The Houston Rockets announced Wednesday that they traded Westbrook to the Washington Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a future first-round pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was the first to report the deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium explained the protections for the draft pick:

This comes after Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported Westbrook wanted to go elsewhere so he can "be himself" on the floor. Charania reported Houston was in talks with the Wizards about a potential Westbrook-for-Wall swap last month but was "seeking more assets."

Wojnarowski provided a timeline on the discussions:

The Westbrook experiment didn't last long in Houston despite the sheer number of assets the Rockets sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder in their July 2019 trade. Houston traded Chris Paul, first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 and the right to swap first-rounders in 2021 and 2025 for the then-eight-time All-Star.

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That trade meant Westbrook and Harden were together again after they played alongside each other with the Thunder from 2009-10 through 2011-12. Their roles were much different this time around, though.

In OKC, Westbrook was an established star and a go-to option with Kevin Durant earlier in his career, while Harden was a secondary playmaker who anchored the bench. Harden is now one of the best players in the league and an annual MVP contender, so Westbrook had to adjust to playing alongside him on the Rockets.

That adjustment period ended in a trade, and Washington now has one of the best playmakers of his generation who is still looking for his first championship. Westbrook won the 2016-17 MVP, is a two-time assist champion and two-time scoring champion, has been named to nine All-NBA teams and is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor.

He averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.6 steals in his first season with the Rockets after averaging a triple-double in each of his final three seasons on the Thunder.

There are concerns about Westbrook's lackluster three-point shooting, tendency to dribble the ball in isolation too much and how aging will impact his hard-nosed style of play, but the Wizards now have someone who can take over a game at a moment's notice as they look toward a potential playoff run.

Washington missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons with Wall sidelined with various injuries. Those setbacks put too much of the onus on Bradley Beal to carry an otherwise lackluster roster, and the result was a plunge down the Eastern Conference standings.

The addition of Westbrook gives the Wizards another star playmaker who can help fill the void left when Wall was injured and return them to postseason relevance.

As for Houston, its new point guard brings yet another question in an offseason of uncertainty.

It already parted ways with general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D'Antoni, traded Robert Covinigton and signed Demarcus Cousins. What's more, Wojnarowski reported Harden is "singularly focused on a trade to the Brooklyn Nets."

The team will look much different in 2020-21, especially if Harden is traded. Whether Wall can return to the form he demonstrated as a five-time All-Star, 2016-17 All-NBA selection and 2014-15 All-Defensive selection prior to the injury concerns will go a long way toward determining whether the Rockets can compete in the daunting Western Conference.

It is quite the gamble, although the addition of the draft compensation will help cushion the blow of losing Westbrook.