A blockbuster trade in the DMV occurred on Dec. 2, sending a franchise cornerstone packing in an emotional exit before the start of 2020-2021 NBA season.
The Washington Wizards traded point guard John Wall and gave up a 2023 projected first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook.
Washington drafted the former University of Kentucky star with their No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. The 30-year-old provided the Wizards with leadership and playmaking ability for nearly a decade.
Though Wall’s career has been marred with injuries, he averaged 19 PPG, 9.2 assists, 1.7 steals and more than 4 rebounds in Washington. Wall has not seen the court since December 2018. Head coach Scott Brooks will reunite with Westbrook who he coached during his stint in Oklahoma City.
He is a five-time all-star, including earning honors of All-NBA (2016-2017), All-Defensive Team (2014-2015), and was named to the All-Rookie team (2010-2011).
Wall and star guard Bradley Beal did not play in the bubble during the pandemic one last time, but Beal stepped into the leadership role effortlessly during Wall’s absence.
With averages of 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game on 45.5% shooting from the field, Beal joined Stephen Curry, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Michael Jordan as the only players to post averages of at least 30 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game on 45 percent or better shooting in a single season since 1975.
Beal scored 25 or more points in 21 straight games from Jan. 20 – March 6, the longest streak in franchise history and the second-longest NBA streak in the past 10 seasons. During the streak, Beal passed Jeff Malone for second place on the franchise’s all-time scoring list.
Even though Beal will not share the floor with Wall this season as teammates, he described their relationship on and off the court as a brotherhood, and the news of Wall’s departure certainly surprised him.
“It has been an emotional week,” said Beal about the Wall trade on the first day of training camp. “Just letting it all seep in and realizing that your brother is no longer here with you … he’s off to something better.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow … I never get into the game of playing GM. It is definitely a tough situation because John is my brother, ya know? And our relationship goes far beyond basketball. We’ve had great years together, 8, 9 years together here in D.C., and it was definitely kind of shocking.
Westbrook, an 11-year veteran, will try to fill in the void that Wall has left. He averaged 27.2 PPG, 7 ASTS and 7.9 RPG in his first and only season in Houston and looks forward to improving Beal’s progression moving forward.
“Man, I’m super excited about it,” said Westbrook about teaming up with Beal. “Brad is a superstar talent, and he’s shown that last year with what he had, and things are going to only get better. My job is to come in and continue to uplift him and try to push him to be better, and that’s all I’m here for, man.”
Westbrook will help guide a youthful lineup where his experience and innate playmaking ability in the painted area can benefit wing shooters, including Beal and Davis Bertans, who recently resigned with the team long term.
As Westbrook joins a superstar in Washington, Wall will as well playing alongside perennial all-star James Harden. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned during a telecast on “Get Up” that Harden “had a preference for Wall over Westbrook” as Houston is somewhat engaged in a rebuilding mode with a new general manager Rafael Stone.
Only time will tell who won the trade between the exchange of the two superstars. Still, it is a decision that Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard feels comfortable about looking ahead.
“Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell’s caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” Sheppard said. “With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”