Washington Wizards: Does a trade for Russell Westbrook make sense?

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

With rumors of a potential Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade floating around, would the Washington Wizards want to enact such a deal?

Houston Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook and Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall: two point guards who share a lot of similarities. Both are known for their elite athleticism, stellar passing, inconsistencies shooting outside of the paint, and their outsized supermax contracts. If you believe The Athletic’s Shams Charania, you can add “possibly traded for one another” to that mix.

Of course, Westbrook’s name has become a topic of discussion since the former league MVP expressed his desire to leave the Houston Rockets, but thanks to his contract (which I won’t get too much into since everything surrounding the “supermax” discussion is a bit of a racket) and his declining reputation as a superstar, teams not owned by Michael Jordan are hesitant to bring him in.

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But for the Washington Wizards, a prospective Westbrook-for-Wall swap wouldn’t be the worst move in the world for them. Yes, Westbrook ranged between slightly above and slightly below average depending on your analytical preference (unless you’re still mesmerized by his counting and per-game stats), but keeping Wall and hoping he resembles anything close to what he was before the Achilles injury isn’t a safe bet either.

Even before the catastrophic injury, it seemed like the former number one overall pick was headed for a decline — his 0.9 Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and .051 win shares per 48 minutes he totaled in 2018-19 were the worst since his first two years in the league, and his -0.31 PIPM from that season doesn’t paint a rosier picture. Does that sound like someone the Wizards can just plug back into the lineup and expect to push them back into the postseason?

Again, Westbrook’s stats weren’t demonstrably better (they were in 2018-19, but his PIPM fell from 3.70 that year to 0.70 last year) and he spaces the floor worse than Wall did in 18-19 (BBall Index’s gravity metric ranked Wall in the 80th percentile in per game 3-point gravity; Westbrook ranked in the 50th percentile in the same category last year), but at least with him, you know what you’re getting.

To be clear, though, there are just as many reasons why Washington shouldn’t go through with this. Westbrook is two years older than Wall, is a worse 3-point shooter (career 30.5 percent from deep; Wall has shot 32.4, even when factoring in that one year he shot SEVEN PERCENT from behind the arc), is slowly losing his explosiveness as he ages, and needs the ball in his hands much more than Wall does. And thanks to the doppelganger contracts, the Wizards wouldn’t get any cap relief, either.

So is it really worth it for the Wizards to perform the transactional equivalent of swapping out matching furniture just to update the decor of a house that’s already on fire? Probably not given that Houston also wants draft picks to go along with Wall. At least if they keep Wall and their picks, they would have an easier path toward a full rebuild that feels more inevitable than the team may want to admit.

But if the Wizards are desperate to make the postseason again, there are worse moves they could make than bringing Westbrook in.

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