Just when it seemed like the NBA offseason was winding down, the Rockets and Wizards made a big splash on Wednesday night, swapping star point guards. Russell Westbrook headed to Washington in the blockbuster deal in exchange for John Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick.
While word of the trade agreement came as something of a surprise when it broke last night, it makes perfect sense in at least one respect: Westbrook’s and Wall’s oversized contracts didn’t appeal to most teams around the NBA, so trading them for one another was the logical move.
“The trade seemed inevitable,” one Eastern Conference executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “Two players at similar stages of their careers and both having demanded a change of scenery. Brooks gets a force of nature with whom he is well versed. Houston gets a much needed first-round pick as they inch toward a rebuild.”
Another Eastern exec who spoke to Scotto suggested that the Wizards are “for sure” a playoff team after adding Westbrook, while a scout told HoopsHype that he’s bullish on Westbrook in D.C. since head coach Scott Brooks “knows how to use him.” However, not everyone who spoke to Scotto loved the trade for the Wizards.
“Two of the worst contracts flipped for each other should tell you something,” a Western Conference GM told HoopsHype. “Did you see Russ play last year? He slowed down (James) Harden. I feel bad for Beal.”
Here are more reactions to – and analyses of – one of the biggest trades of the 2020 offseason:
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post (Twitter link) hears that D.C. was Westbrook’s preferred destination, and that the former MVP is intrigued by the opportunity to team up with Bradley Beal and to play again for Brooks, his former coach in Oklahoma City.
- The Rockets remain in win-now mode and “wouldn’t accept” trading Westbrook away for a package that signaled a full-scale rebuild, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Iko adds that initial talks between the two teams stalled because they were haggling over draft capital and the possible inclusion of another young player – such as Thomas Bryant – in a deal. Houston and Washington ultimately kept it simple, just adding a single first-round pick to the Westbrook/Wall swap.
- Kurt Helin of NBC Sports poses five big questions related to the trade, including how much Wall has left in the tank after missing nearly two full years due to injury.
- The trade is the right move for the Wizards, but it’s packed with risk, Ben Golliver writes for The Washington Post. Elsewhere at The Washington Post, Jerry Brewer bids farewell to Wall, writing that the former No. 1 pick’s exit “seems both premature and overdue.”
- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis had to make a choice between Wall and Beal and ultimately decided to stick with Beal, says David Aldridge of The Athletic. “At the end of the day, this is a Ted call,” a source told Aldridge.
- The Westbrook/Wall swap is a sign of how the two point guards are valued in today’s NBA, according to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, who says “the teams that matter aren’t the least bit concerned by this move.”
- Having covered Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Fred Katz of The Athletic tells Wizards fans what they can expect from their new point guard.