A John Wall Blockbuster to Save Rockets PG, Plus 3 Brand-New NBA Trades
John Wall and the Houston Rockets are better off without each other.
This is not a revelation. Wall is 31. The Rockets are rebuilding. These two sides are on warring timelines. That disconnect has merely grown starker—and louder.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Wall recently met with general manager Rafael Stone about rejoining Houston's rotation, which he has yet to set foot in this season. That dialogue did...absolutely nothing. Wall wants to start, while the Rockets are only willing to offer him a bench role.
Trading the five-time All-Star elsewhere is the natural solution and has been for quite some time. It's also the path of most resistance. Wall is making $44.3 million this season and has a $47.3 million player option for 2022-23. Prospective suitors are only interested in dealing for him if he declines the latter, per SI.com's Chris Mannix. That, in all overwhelming likelihood, isn't happening.
Equally implausible: The idea Houston might attach sweeteners to Wall's contract. It isn't entirely outside the realm of possibility, but rebuilding squads have little incentive to unload picks or prospects for the sake of cutting salary.
All of which renders a Wall trade virtually impossible in the current climate. But is it actually impossible? We're attempting to make the answer no—while dropping a few other fresh and unrelated ideas in the process.
Dallas Takes a Medium-Sized Swing
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Eric Gordon, Danuel House
Houston Rockets Receive: Willie Cauley-Stein, Josh Green, Dwight Powell, 2025 first-round pick (top-seven protection)
Failing a stroke of miraculous luck, the Mavericks don't have the asset juice to acquire another star. They're more equipped to net an impactful role player who can alleviate the burden placed upon Luka Doncic and just generally diversify the team's offensive portfolio.
Enter Eric Gordon.
Some consider his contract onerous. It's not. He's making $18.2 million this season and $19.6 million in 2022-23, and his $20.9 million salary in 2023-24 won't guarantee unless he makes an All-Star team or wins a championship. Those are workable terms for what he brings.
Nearly 40 percent of Gordon's looks this season are coming at the hoop. That would lead all non-bigs on the Mavericks by a light year. His 43.2 percent clip from deep includes a 45.5 percent hit rate on catch-and-shoot opportunities and 42 percent accuracy from 26-plus feet.
Getting off Dwight Powell's contract, which spans through next season, is a bonus for Dallas. The offense has imploded with him on the floor and is utterly hopeless when he lines up beside Kristaps Porzingis. Giving up two bigs puts some strain on the frontcourt, but KP is better at the 5 anyway, and Danuel House has some experience sponging up center reps in small-ball units.
The Rockets' side of the equation is more tenuous. Powell and Willie Cauley-Stein amount to a big-man overload, but they don't have to play—or even stick on the roster. Josh Green, a 6'6" wing with some bounce, is a nice flier, and Houston should not be above stockpiling more distant firsts.
New Orleans Tries to Add Offensive Jolt
Indiana Pacers Receive: Tomas Satoransky
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Jeremy Lamb
Challenge trade alert!
New Orleans is miles below .500 yet still clearly trying to win games. Though Jeremy Lamb does nothing to boost a bottom-five defense, the Pelicans also happen to have a bottom-five offense that ranks 27th in three-point attempt rate, 23rd in accuracy from beyond the arc and 24th in success rate on mid-range jumpers.
How much Lamb does to bolster these struggles is anyone's guess. He sprained his left ankle to start November but has been unable to carve out a regular role within a rotation that's missing T.J. Warren. It absolutely matters that Indiana has more faith in rookie Chris Duarte.
Still, the cost of entry is low enough for the Pelicans not to care. Lamb is drilling nearly 40 percent of his threes and has the on-ball fluidity to saunter into his trademark mid-range jumper. He makes more sense than a struggling and underused Tomas Satoransky.
Indiana looms as an intriguing destination for the latter. Satoransky puts way more pressure on the rim than Lamb and offers a playmaking alternative to certain units that don't have a clear or stable ball-handling hierarchy—his ultra-crummy start to the season notwithstanding.
A straight-up swap should do the trick for both sides. Lamb and Satoransky are on expiring deals of almost equal value, and neither has played well enough to be painted as the inarguably better asset. If any additional compensation is required, it shouldn't be richer than a mid-end second-rounder.
Toronto Gets a Real Big
Sacramento Kings Receive: Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton, Goran Dragic, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection through 2024; turns into two seconds if not conveyed), 2023 second-round pick
Toronto Raptors Receive: Richaun Holmes, Tristan Thompson
Richaun Holmes isn't going anywhere if the Kings are unwilling to blow it up. Related: The Kings should blow it up. Topping out as a play-in team and maybe artificially ending your 15-year postseason drought hardly counts as a glamorous outlook.
Trading Holmes jump-starts the asset collection. He is not a defensive anchor but can hold his own around the rim. His utility in the open floor and as a lob-finisher are givens, and he's converting 62.5 percent of his floaters.
Bagging him in the first season of a four-year contract (2024-25 player option) that pays him slightly more than mid-level-exception money is a privilege. At the same time, the fact that Sacramento was able to retain him on such a contract implies finite interest. Extracting two first-rounders feels like a stretch.
Toronto's package is a nice middle ground. The Kings are light on players between 6'7" and 6'9" who can man multiple positions, and rookie Dalano Banton has cracked the Raptors rotation thanks to his paint pressure, finishing inside, secondary ball-handling and defensive disruption.
Precious Achiuwa started off the season very blah but has perked up over the past couple of weeks. Goran Dragic, who is currently away from the Raptors, would be expiring salary ballast the Kings can try to buy out or reroute.
Whether the Raptors are prepared to act like buyers is anyone's guess. They're under .500 but within three games of the East's top six. Holmes gives them a true center who crashes the defensive glass and sends back shots at the rim, where Toronto ranks 29th in opponent field-goal percentage. Lotto-protecting the pick safeguards them against disaster.
John Wall Ends Up in L.A.
Houston Rockets Receive: Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: John Wall
Finding a new home for Wall requires a delicate, if not impractical, balance. Potential landing spots must not only be willing to foot his two-year bill, but they need the expendable contracts to match. The Clippers come closest to checking every box.
Their offense could use the jolt a healthy Wall provides. They are 25th in points scored per possession, 20th in the share of their shots that come at the rim and 29th in transition efficiency. Wall does not wield the same level of explosion he did in his heyday, but he can still put pressure on set defenses and constitutes a demonstrative outside shooting and playmaking upgrade over Eric Bledsoe.
This isn't enough of an incentive for the Clippers to fully embrace his pay grade. But the opportunity cost is reasonable enough for them to think about it—particularly with Kawhi Leonard possibly out for the season. Bledsoe is too often an offensive non-factor, and Serge Ibaka hasn't looked right since returning from his back injury. Neither is especially likely to stick with L.A. beyond this season.
Luke Kennard is the sticking point. After opening the year on relative fire, he has dipped below 34 percent shooting from deep over the past 12 games and is hitting barely 40 percent of his twos for the season. His defensive energy has been admirable, at times, but the $43.2 million he's guaranteed through 2023-24 (team option in 2024-25) registers as a net negative when he's not spitting fire.
Houston shouldn't need to think twice about this package. The balance of Kennard's entire contract is less than Wall is making this season, and he's still only 25. The more salient question is whether the Rockets would be willing to send out small-potato buffers—like Milwaukee's 2023 first or its 2023 and 2024 seconds—to make the deal more palatable for L.A.