Does the Houston Rockets’ surprising move to acquire John Wall suddenly improve their title chances?
Just when the NBA offseason had appeared to calm down, the Houston Rockets pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal to land four-time All-Star John Wall, albeit at the expense of Russell Westbrook. Houston now pairs James Harden with Wall and will now look to put the Rockets over the hill in the Western Conference.
Rockets General Manager Rafael Stone’s vision for the team this season clearly did not include Russell Westbrook next to James Harden in the backcourt, as the Rockets acquired Wall instead, along with a future first-round draft pick from the Washington Wizards.
Wall’s strength compared to Westbrook is his ability to be a “true” point guard. The term “true” emphasizes Wall’s ability to run the floor and possibly allow Harden to develop an off-ball role. While when healthy the strongest component of his game was his elite athleticism, Wall’s ability to facilitate the game from the point position is something that could benefit Harden’s game more than Westbrook’s, where it was a clash of two different styles of basketball.
Perhaps Stone and Rockets head coach Stephen Silas discussed the new gameplan, which will involve the five-out style similar to the Dallas Mavericks last year. And while Wall is only a slightly better career perimeter shooter than Westbrook, the coaching staff and organization clearly believes Wall plays better to that style and complements the new additions of Christian Wood and Demarcus Cousins better than Westbrook.
Is Wall the missing ingredient for the Houston Rockets?
Another factor is team chemistry, which is crucial to a team’s success. Last year the Rockets’ initial gameplan with Westbrook did not work out as planned and the mindset shifted midseason to small-ball. And while out of the gate it seemed unstoppable, it then took a turn for the worst with the one-dimensional style and large margins of losses. Then the NBA shutdown happened, and the Rockets were average at best in the bubble.
What is different this year is the Houston Rockets have a fresh coaching scheme with a gameplan that compliments all players, unlike the clashing last year. On opening night the team should be ready to go with the many different dimensions of offense they provide, for example the pick-and-rolls with Wood and Cousins. Also, the defense on paper has increased with Wall on the perimeter and Cousins in the paint to go along with already established defenders like P.J. Tucker.
While many have listed the previous star teammates Harden has tried and failed with, like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook, this argument may be false when it comes to John Wall. Right now Wall is a question mark on what he will be.
And this is one of the first teams Harden has been given where the rest of the players on the court are all well-balanced contributors. You can argue that the 2017-18 Houston Rockets was Harden’s best supporting cast but the team was coached primarily to shoot the 3-ball and that lead to their demise in the Western Conference Finals that year.
What John Wall provides for Houston potentially is the glue to the new gameplan and gels the offseason acquisitions together. Now there is no power struggle between Harden and the second star over who handles the ball longer and the team can roll out and just play their game. This is what the Westbrook-Wall trade symbolizes.