“One man’s trash is another man’s...trash?”
This was the text message I sent to my homeboys on Wednesday after news broke that the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets would be exchanging headaches and participating in a foreign exchange program that includes Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick.
For weeks, we’ve heard rumors that a deal was in the works, but apparently general managers Tommy Sheppard and Rafael Stone have been bumping entirely too much Jagged Edge as of late, because on Wednesday they mutually agreed that “we ain’t getting no younger, we might as well do this.”
“The two [general managers]—Washington’s Tommy Sheppard and Houston’s Rafael Stone—hadn’t talked in weeks on the deal, but connected this afternoon and had a deal done within a few hours, sources tell ESPN,” hoops god Woj tweeted.
Soooooooooooo who does this trade benefit exactly?
Westbrook just turned 32, and while he’s still an explosive scorer, his game is heavily predicated on his athleticism—the same athleticism that’s doomed to evaporate any day now. Add in the fact that he can’t shoot for shit and is the proud owner of one of the worst contracts in the entire league and it’s hard to rationalize why a team that’s in full rebuild mode would not only compromise its salary cap flexibility for eternity but pay good money to see a nigga show up to work dressed like this just to lose games. The Wizards could’ve done that shit for free.
From Houston’s end, they likely hurled confetti when Westbrook demanded a trade in November after a season in which the Rockets failed miserably in the playoffs (probably because six-foot-five centers are about as useful as Van Jones). The problem is that after exchanging high fives and shedding tears of joy, they immediately realized that nobody in their right mind would trade for a grossly overpaid, aging chucker—except for the Wizards, whose front office is apparently fully stocked with absinthe and hallucinogenics.
In trading for Wall, the Rockets have acquired a five-time All-Star who’s essentially Usain Bolt on a basketball court: insanely quick, explosive, can actually shoot—unlike Westbrook—and he actually likes to pass—unlike Westbrook. But he’s also coming off a nasty Achilles tear that’s robbed him of two years—two years!—of NBA action and somehow has a contract that’s just as hideous as the dude the Rockets just got rid of.
Ideally, Wall is a much better fit with Harden than Westbrook ever was, but last I checked, Wall hasn’t hooped since December 26, 2018, aaaaaand The Beard wants out of Houston, too. So assuming the Rockets are forced to trade Harden, it’s a forgone conclusion that the returns on that investment won’t compare (unless they can somehow fool the Nets into coughing up Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jarrett Allen), which means that Houston is hinging its immediate future on two 30-year-olds with major injury concerns (recent signee Boogie Cousins is coming off an ACL and Achilles tear in consecutive seasons) and a guy who could either be the next NBA superstar or the next free-agent bust in Christain Wood.
But if there’s one winner in all of this grossly overpaid chaos, it’s Bradley Beal. He’s played the good soldier in Washington, churning out All-NBA numbers without All-NBA accolades and if the Westbrook situation doesn’t work out, he can Kanye Shrug, request a trade, and peace out with his reputation still intact. Congrats!
In a perfect world, Wall will defy the odds and play like a man possessed this season, but for the time being, this trade feels way too much like exchanging chores with your siblings.
Would you rather pull weeds or scrub the baseboards?