Rumors are circulating that the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers could engage in a trade that would send Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to Houston and John Wall to Los Angeles. If the trade were to materialize, it would be the second time in less than 18-months that Wall and Westbrook would be traded for each other.
Why the Lakers Want to Trade Russell Westbrook
The Lakers have been hovering around .500 this season and Westbrook has yet to find his footing. He is averaging his fewest points per game since his second season in the league, and his effective field goal percentage is his worst since his age 22 season.
By every advanced metric, Westbrook has been one of the worst players in the league to receive substantial playing time. However, the good old eye test would also tell you that Westbrook is not the player he once was.
The Lakers entertaining a swap of Westbrook for Wall can only be described as desperate.
The reason why Westbrook and Wall are linked in trade again is because they are on near-identical contracts. There aren’t many players making $40+ million this season, and no teams are willing to offload the necessary players to match salaries in a potential Westbrook deal.
If the Lakers want to move off of Westbrook, their only real option is Wall.
From a basketball standpoint, swapping Wall for Westbrook probably doesn’t move the needle much for the Lakers. The last time we saw Wall he was a shell of the player he once was. While Westbrook’s bricks are legendary, Wall has the lower career effective field goal percentage.
In theory, Wall’s pass-first style and slightly better career 3-point shooting is a better fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, Wall hasn’t had a marginally healthy season since the 2016-17 season and his defense has been in steady decline. There’s also the reality that Wall hasn’t played an NBA game this season.
The Houston Rockets side of the equation
In the offseason, the Rockets and John Wall came to an agreement where Wall would not suit up for games and act as a mentor to the Rockets’ young core, and the Rockets, in return, would continue to pay him and look to find him a move to a contender.
After months of inactivity, a short-lived “free John Wall” campaign, and a few workout videos there is a real chance that Wall could actually find himself on “contender,” and the Rockets could actually get an asset out of it.
The Lakers' 2027 or 2028 first-round pick could be one of the best assets in the entire league. The Lakers have the oldest roster in the league and sent out multiple first-round picks in the Anthony Davis deal. LeBron James is 37-years-old and as great as he still is there’s very little chance he’ll be an impact player five seasons from now.
In reality, there is no difference between Wall and Westbrook for the Rockets. They’re not playing Wall and have been content to pay him to stay away from the court. They would likely do the same thing with Westbrook.
The Lakers are unlikely to swap Westbrook and a first-round pick for Wall. It would be a massive risk to bring in a player with his injury history and who hasn’t played a game all season. Not to mention, their 2027 or 2028 first-round pick may be a crucial asset in a rebuild.
However, if the Lakers were capable of making the bad decision to trade for Westbrook in the first place, then they’re plenty capable of making a bad trade to get rid of him.