On December 2, 2020, there was a trade made that surprised most folks around the NBA. The Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets decided to swap point guards. John Wall, who hadn’t played in two years, was off to Houston. And Russell Westbrook, coming off a terrific, but injury-altered year with the Rockets would head to DC. Be that as it may, the Wizards were smart to trade John Wall.
Wizards’ fans had to be heartbroken to see their franchise star be dealt. Though Wall hadn’t played since December of 2018, he was a huge part of the Wizards success in the previous several years. He has been there a long time, and this meant that all the hard work he did to get back was for naught for his old team. As soon as he got healthy, they found a team willing to take his ‘untradeable’ contract.
But, Wizards made the smart move. They are now competing for a spot in the playoffs. The Rockets have the fewest wins of any of the 30 teams in the league. Wall had his moments, but Westbrook has again been one of the most electrifying players in the league. Truly incredible stuff.
Houston Not Winning Anything
There was a time this season where the Houston Rockets were 11-10. That was obviously a long time ago. They lost 20 games in a row during one stretch, spanning most of a period where Christian Wood was out of the lineup with a severe ankle injury. To be fair, the year began with James Harden who obviously did not want to be here anymore. So, they were doomed from day one.
They acquired Victor Oladipo in the trade for Harden. As injuries plagued his time here, he appeared in just 20 games. Injuries affected Wall throughout, as he missed extended periods on a few occasions for body maintenance. Wood missed 24 games. David Nwaba, who was a key contributor earlier in the season, played in just 30 games. Eric Gordon only appeared in 27, Danuel House in 33.
But on the topic of Wall, he did have some great moments. He put up 21 points, three rebounds, and seven assists per game. He averaged just over a steal per contest and barely under a block. He had some terrific games. But, he shot just 40% from the floor, tending to use most possessions to create for himself. He’d go 4-5 sequences in a row taking the shot.
There was never continuity within the offense because, for all the good things Wall did, he still hurt them as often as he helped.
It’s really too bad he barely got to play with Kevin Porter Jr. KPJ has been terrific since joining the team, averaging 17-4-6 in 25 games. He became the fourth 20-year-old to drop 50 points in a single game last week, also throwing 10 assists in there, too. It helped them beat a loaded Bucks team.
The future in Houston is certainly bright. But right now, they have just been losing a lot. And Wall didn’t help much.
Wizards Starting to Soar
It has not been a perfect year for the Wizards by any stretch. But, recently, they have been winning at as impressive a pace as any team in the league. Once the owner of a 17-32 record, they have gone 13-3 over their past 16 games. This, in spite of losing Deni Avdija for the season and being without Rui Hachimura for a handful of the games, too.
In all, Westbrook is averaging 22-11-11 per game with 1.3 steals. Now in year 13, those are career-highs in rebounds and assists. He always finds new ways to get better. He’s shooting his highest percentage from three-point-range in four years. Russ has posted 32 triple-doubles to date, his third season having at least 30. It’s truly incredible.
The most impressive thing about the assist totals is that the Wizards don’t have too many shooters. They have Bradley Beal, scoring 30+ per game. They have Davis Bertans, a catch-and-shoot specialist. And they have three big men who rotate in that can all finish around the rim. It isn’t like the team around the backcourt is super talented. And yet, he continues to put up terrific numbers.
They have beaten the likes of Utah, Golden State, the Lakers, and the Pacers during their hot stretch. They also scored wins over Denver and Boston earlier in the season. Westbrook’s Wizards are in a position they have not been in for the past couple of years. Playoff position.
The play-in will be the route Washington has to take to the playoffs. But to even have a chance should be enough for them. Nobody has been able to slow Westbrook down. And, he’s appeared in 43 straight games, proving that his body can handle the workload every night. And the seven games he missed were all tied to back-to-backs, a little load management.
Westbrook has had a positive +/- in 11 of Washington’s last 13 games.
Wizards Clearly Won the Trade
There is no world where Rockets fans should be happy about not having Russ around anymore. Westbrook obviously did not want to be in Houston, so a deal had to be made. Wizards fans should be ecstatic about the situation which once again proves that the Wizards were smart to trade John Wall.
Scott Brooks, who probably should have been fired when the team was 17-32, just won coach of the month in the East. It’s crazy how the world works. It’s truly wild how the NBA works.
Keep riding, DC. Westbrook is crushing it. Beal is on fire. And this team is must-see TV. Unlike those ‘tanking’ Rockets.
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