The Rockets, who traded Russell Westbrook to the Wizards for John Wall and a future first-round pick during the 2020 offseason, would be amenable to reacquiring Westbrook from the Lakers if the deal included “sufficient draft compensation,” Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.
Stein hears from sources that Houston would want the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick (the only first-rounder L.A. can trade due to the Stepien rule) in a Wall-for-Westbrook swap, though he says it’s possible the Rockets would accept multiple second-rounders.
This report doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, Wall has been inactive and on the trade block for a half-season already and there has been no indication the Rockets will be able to find a deal that nets them any positive assets for the veteran guard.
An eventual buyout appears to be the most likely resolution for Wall and the Rockets, so acquiring a player with a virtually identical contract (Wall and Westbrook are each earning $44MM+ this season, with a $47MM+ player option for 2022/23) and getting a draft pick or two in the process would be a massive win for Houston.
It may seem odd that the Rockets would have any interest in reacquiring Westbrook, given that they’re in the midst of a rebuild and their previous union with the nine-time All-Star didn’t work out especially well. But Westbrook almost certainly wouldn’t play any more for Houston than Wall has this season — any deal would be all about the draft assets. In other words, you could substitute any player’s name for Westbrook’s in the headline of this story and it would still be true.
While it’s easy to see why the Rockets would be motivated to explore another Wall/Westbrook swap, it’s harder to justify it from the Lakers’ perspective, a fact Stein acknowledges within his report.
As awkward a fit as Westbrook has been in Los Angeles, there’s no guarantee that Wall – who has dealt with a series of leg injuries in recent years and hasn’t played in a game since last April – would be any better. L.A. would also be selling extremely low on Westbrook, who came on strong during the second half of his first and only season in Washington in 2020/21.
If the Lakers are willing to move their 2027 first-rounder and/or multiple second-round picks, there are better deals to be made. According to Stein, the Pistons haven’t shown any interest in trading Jerami Grant for a package of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and the Lakers’ 2027 pick, but Grant is one of the hottest names on this season’s trade market — there will be other options available for Los Angeles that don’t involve the team rolling the dice on a player (Wall) whose 2021/22 cap hit ($44.3MM) exceeds his total games played over the last three seasons (40).