Should the Houston Rockets trade Russell Westbrook for John Wall?
Analyzing John Wall
Projecting how John Wall will play this coming season is a near-impossible task. The 30-year-old guard missed all of last season and only played a combined 73 games between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
To make matters worse Wall is coming back from an Achilles tear, an injury that has brought an abrupt end to many players’ days as an All-Star. The uncertainty surrounding John Wall is likely what is holding up trade talks between the Wizards and the Rockets.
If John Wall is fully healthy and back to his form from the 2016-17 season then there is no doubt that Wall is the more valuable player than Westbrook over the next three seasons. However, Wall did play in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and he was already showing signs of decline.
(Difference from the previous season)
Season Win Shares Win Shares/48 Games played
2016-17: 8.8 (+3.1) .149 (+.051) 78 (+1)
2017-18: 2.7 (-6.1) .092 (-.057) 41 (-37)
2018-19: 1.2 (-1.5) .051 (-.041) 32 (-9)
2019-20: DNP DNP 0 (-32)
The worrisome sign for Wall is not that his win shares dropped, that is to be expected he played fewer games, but that his win shares per 48 dropped which aren’t beholden to playing time. As a 26-year-old Wall was All-NBA in 2016-17 and each subsequent season he has played fewer games and at a lower standard.
While Wall’s decline would scare off most suitors there is the mitigating factor that he was playing through injuries in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 before he ruptured his Achilles as he rehabbed from heel surgery. The question for the Rockets, which becomes a question for the Wizards, is how good will Wall be in 2020-21 and beyond?
NBA players’ peak seasons tend to be from their age 25 to age 28 seasons. From ages, 28 to 32 players usually plateau and begin experiencing a slight decline. Using Wall’s 2016-17 as his peak, let’s try and project what his age 30 to 32 seasons could look like by having him experience a similar decline as Russell Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook’s two best seasons were his age 27 and 28 seasons where he produced 14 and 13.1 win shares but by age 30 Westbrook produced only 6.8 win shares. Westbrook saw his performance from his peak seasons decline to 50.2-percent of what it once was by age 30.
Using the 8.8 win shares John Wall produced in his age-26 season as his high point let’s see how much we would expect him to tail off by the age of 30 and then through his age-32 season at a loss of 1.1 win shares and .02 win shares per 48 each season.
Season Win Shares Win Shares/48 Age
2020-21: 4.4 (-1.1) .078 (-.02) 30
2021-22: 3.3 (-1.1) .058 (-.02) 31
2022-23: 2.2 (-1.1) .038 (-.02) 32
The saddest part about John Wall’s career is he lost three of his peak seasons to injury. While these projections are rudimentary and play off of assumptions they indicate that it is unlikely that John Wall will ever be a true All-Star again.
Next: How much should the Rockets ask for?