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The Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets have agreed to trade two disgruntled star point guards, John Wall and Russell Westbrook, in a blockbuster deal, the teams announced Wednesday.
The Wizards are sending Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round NBA draft pick to the Rockets for Westbrook in a deal that both players wanted and had been simmering for weeks.
The 2023 first-round pick is lottery protected for the Wizards. If it doesn’t convey in that year, it has a succession of protections that include picks Nos. 1-12 in 2024, picks 1-10 in 2025 and picks 1-8 in 2026, sources said. If it hasn’t conveyed as a first-round pick to Houston by 2026, it becomes a second-round pick in each of 2026 and 2027, sources told ESPN.
Discussions had been stalled since mid-November, sources said, until the two general managers, Washington’s Tommy Sheppard and Houston’s Rafael Stone, decided to get on the phone Tuesday afternoon. They worked out a deal within hours, sources said.
For the Wizards and Rockets, there’s hope that the exchange of guards will play a role in convincing the two franchise shooting guards on each team, Washington’s Bradley Beal and Houston’s James Harden, to want to stay long term with their teams. Harden has privately asked for a trade, and Beal could become a free agent in 2021.
Westbrook and Wizards coach Scott Brooks have a long history, spending seven years as player and coach together in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook’s partnership with Harden in Houston lasted only one season after the recent MVPs played leading roles in orchestrating a 2019 summer trade that sent Chris Paul to Oklahoma City along with two first-round picks and two first-round swap rights in exchange for Westbrook.
Westbrook and Harden both informed the Rockets this offseason that they wished to be moved to other destinations, specifically the Brooklyn Nets in Harden’s case, sources have said.
Houston’s stance on Harden has not changed, a high-ranking Rockets source told ESPN, saying the team hoped to be competitive with the perennial MVP candidate on the roster this season and does not envision a scenario in which Harden would be traded before the opener. The Rockets have let it be known that they would require a return that included a young, potential franchise cornerstone and a massive picks package in any potential deal for Harden, according to sources.
Sources said that Westbrook cited a desire to “play my game” and concerns about the Rockets’ casual culture. Westbrook was a third-team All-NBA selection during his season with the Rockets, averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, despite getting off to a slow start while recovering from knee surgery and adapting to a new franchise following an 11-year tenure in Oklahoma City.
Westbrook’s season ended on a sour note after he reported late to the NBA’s Walt Disney World bubble because he had contracted the coronavirus and he strained his right quadriceps during the seeding schedule. The injury caused Westbrook to miss the first four games of the first-round playoff series against the Thunder, his former team. He struggled upon his return, averaging 17.9 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 42.1% from the floor during the playoffs.
Westbrook, 32, has $133 million over three seasons remaining on his contract, with a player option for the final year. He has been an All-Star in nine of the past 10 seasons and joined Oscar Robertson as the only players to average a triple-double for a season, doing so his last three campaigns for the Thunder.
Wall, 30, hasn’t played since Dec. 26, 2018, missing two seasons with injuries to his Achilles tendon and knee. He’s still owed three years and $132 million on his contract. Once, Wall and Beal were considered the league’s best young backcourt, but that future was derailed with the series of injuries to Wall, who has shown himself in the offseason to have regained a great deal of his quickness and explosion.