Houston Rockets: Can John Wall continue to outproduce Russell Westbrook?
The results this season, for both Wall and Westbrook, have been underwhelming considering their $40 million-plus price tags. That being said, there should be much more optimism that Wall can build off this start.
Wall’s age, lengthy injury lay-off, and role in the Rockets offense before James Harden was dealt give him room to improve on his early-season showing. It needs to be remembered but before Wall suited up this season for the Rockets he hadn’t played a professional basketball game in close to two years and rust was inevitable.
As the season progresses he’ll be able to get back the timing and flow that you can only get by playing real NBA games. Also, Wall’s greatest offensive attribute is his passing and playmaking abilities.
Now that James Harden has been dealt, Wall should see the Rockets lean into his greatest strength. Through seven games the Rockets weren’t using Wall optimally and he still performed well despite it.
Westbrook’s future is less rosy and it appears the Rockets moved him at the right time. His game has been in decline for multiple seasons and Westbrook is absent the traits that allow for a graceful decline phase.
Westbrook is not suddenly going to become a good shooter, which places tremendous pressure on him to get to the rim and finish. He hasn’t been able to do that this season and it might not be a skill that is coming back.
His rebounding and passing still remain effective but his lack of an outside shot and poor defense means he has to be near the top of the league in both of those categories to anything more than a replacement-level player. As the season goes on both Wall and Westbrook should continue to perform relatively close to their early-season levels.
Wall should be at least average, with real upside, and Westbrook will continue to fill the box score as the Wizards lose insistently due to his shortcomings. The Rockets appear to have won a trade with no winners.
John Wall is getting paid over $40 million the next three seasons, as is Westbrook, and neither is going to come close to playing up to their price tags. The Rockets got the less bad asset, which is a win, but not a very triumphant won.