Will Russell Westbrook-John Wall Trade Help Either Team?
04 December 2020
The NBA world received a shock this week when All-Star point guards Russell Westbrook and John Wall were swapped by their teams. The Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards will look different coming into the 2020-2021 season as a result. But the question that should be asked heading into the season is whether or not this deal makes either team materially better as playoff contenders.
Houston Rockets Don’t Benefit From Deal
Houston was dealing with some negativity this offseason, with both Westbrook and James Harden indicating their desire to be traded. For that reason, trading Westbrook for the best offer that they could get may have been necessary. From a talent standpoint, though, the Rockets are not a better team than they were when they had Westbrook on the roster.
A huge reason for that is the fact that John Wall is not on the floor as often as he needs to be. Injuries have derailed Wall’s career over the last couple of years. And even if Westbrook was inefficient as a scorer, he was a regular presence on the floor at an All-Star level. The Rockets will not be able to enjoy similar reliability from Wall, which could harm their chances of making the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
After the trade, the Rockets are at NBA betting odds of +4000 to win the NBA Finals. That puts them at longer odds than several teams who are not thought to be serious contenders to win the title. The Golden State Warriors, for example, will be without Klay Thompson for the upcoming season due to an Achilles injury. That Golden State team is only +3000 to win the title, and is thought to be superior to this new-look Rockets squad.
Washington Wizards In For Improved Year
The Washington Wizards have gone multiple years without the services of John Wall. And while Bradley Beal has helped them remain in the playoff picture, the lack of a second star has hurt them. By acquiring Russell Westbrook, the Wizards should have a dependable star who can help them improve from the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference to a team that is securely in the playoffs.
For the Wizards this year, the question will be whether or not Westbrook and Beal can coexist. Westbrook has a history of being too ball dominant for the liking of other star players. With Beal having to carry the load in Wall’s absence, there will be an adjustment period for both players to get used to one another. Only time will tell if that adjustment will lead to positive results for the team from the nation’s capital.
In terms of their NBA championship candidacy, the Wizards are considered to be a longshot to take the 2021 title. They are at +12000 odds to win it all, with a $100 bet paying a cool $12,000 if the Wizards shock the world. Compared to previous years, though, it is clear that the Wizards will have more firepower.
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Last year, the Wizards finished in fourth place in the five-team Southeast Division. This year, they could easily finish in second place behind the Miami Heat. They will have to compete with the Atlanta Hawks to get there, as Atlanta has also made some upgrades this offseason. But it looks clear that the Wizards with Westbrook will be superior to the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Magic.
As of now, the Rockets have said that they do not envision a scenario in which James Harden will be traded. Harden is the best scorer in the NBA today, and a team would need to give up a significant amount to lure him away from Houston. Given Harden’s lack of postseason success, it is unlikely that any team would give up enough assets in the form of players and draft picks to bring him in.
Stephen Silas is the new head coach of the Houston Rockets. Silas has never been a head coach in the NBA before. He has, however, spent two decades as an assistant and scout for various NBA teams. Whether or not he can have success as an NBA head coach remains to be seen, but the Rockets opted to make a change after failing to win a title with Mike D’Antoni during his tenure.