Rockets Rumors: James Harden Preferred Duo with John Wall over Russell Westbrook

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2020

Washington Wizards guard John Wall, right, meets with Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) after an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in Washington. The Wizards won 135-131. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Wednesday night's blockbuster trade sending John Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick from the Washington Wizards to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook reportedly may have been made with an eye toward keeping James Harden in Houston.

During an appearance on Get Up, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said Harden had a "preference" to play alongside Wall rather than Westbrook:

Despite that preference, Wojnarowski added that the Rockets are unsure if swapping Westbrook for Wall will be enough to appease Harden and convince him to re-sign on a long-term deal.  

After playing one season with Westbrook and failing to advance past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, Harden was reportedly already interested in a change.

Last month, Wojnarowski reported that Harden rejected a contract extension offer from the Rockets and expressed a desire to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets so he could play alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

Nothing has come of that yet, as the Rockets needn't have any sense of urgency to trade Harden since he is under contract through at least the 2021-22 season.

Since Harden and Westbrook are both alphas who constantly want to have the ball in their hands, it was uncertain from the start if they would be able to co-exist.

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Wall seems like a much better fit on the surface since he is a natural playmaker who owns a career average of 9.2 assists per game. He is also a solid scorer at 19.0 points per game, but he doesn't hesitate to defer to his teammates.

The one major issue with Wall is the fact that he missed all but 32 games in 2018-19 and then the entire 2019-20 season with an Achilles injury.

It is unclear if Wall will be the same player when he returns this season after previously being a five-time All-Star and one-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection.

Westbrook is two years older than Wall at 32, and he is also a more accomplished player with nine All-Star nods and one NBA MVP award to his credit.

Westbrook averaged a triple-double per game for three straight seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2016-17 through 2018-19 and remained highly productive statistically with the Rockets last season, averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

While Westbrook is a good passer with a career assist average of 8.3 per game, he is more of a natural scorer with than Wall with 23.2 points per game.

That could potentially lead to a clash of styles with star guard Bradley Beal in Washington, but if Beal wants to win, then Westbrook may be a better running mate than Wall since there are question marks regarding Wall's health.

Also, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks previously coached Westbrook in OKC, so he knows how to utilize him better than almost anyone.

Both Harden and Beal figure to be happier for the time being, but as the failed Harden-Westbrook experiment proved last season, it doesn't necessarily take long for a new working relationship to fall apart in the NBA.