Now that the Wizards have traded star guard Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, it's worth looking back at the other blockbuster deal Westbrook was involved in for Washington, when the Wizards acquired him from the Rockets just ninth months ago. We now have two massive trades that are interconnected and the context surrounding the decision to trade John Wall has to be updated.
Let's go back to the start. The Wizards had in Wall a five-time All-Star making a supermax contract who was returning from a ruptured Achilles. They shipped him and a heavily protected first round pick to the Rockets for Westbrook.
The deal was criticized by many and it tugged at the emotions of Wizards fans, but Westbrook outplayed Wall this season by averaging a triple-double and setting career-highs in assists and rebounds. He led the NBA in assists per game. He also helped the Wizards reach the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Now he's heading elsewhere, to his fourth team in three years. The Wizards traded Westbrook along with two second round picks and in return got Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope plus a 2021 first round pick. They then sent that pick, 22nd overall, to the Pacers for Aaron Holiday and the 31st overall pick in the second round.
So, there are a few different ways to look at this. One way is they initially got a first round pick back, effectively canceling out the one they attached with Wall to get Westbrook. Another is that they took a contract no one thought was tradeable in Wall's and nine months later turned it into four rotation players and a second round pick, Isaiah Todd of G-League Ignite.
That should prove to make good basketball sense, but also by making this second trade, the Wizards now have more financial flexibility moving forward. They got out from under one supermax by trading it for another, but then eliminated that one from their payroll. That's not easy to do.
Now, the Wizards figure to have about $25 million in cap space next summer, per ESPN's Bobby Marks. They otherwise would have had Westbrook due to make $47.1 million the following season. This will set the Wizards up to be players in free agency to a degree they haven't been in years, not since 2016.
Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard started with a bad situation and made it better last season. He may have then taken another step further with this deal by adding depth and cap room.
To what degree it works, we will see. Ultimately, they went from having two stars -- Westbrook and Bradley Beal -- to one in an era where contenders are often determined by the quantity of stars as much as the quality.
But with depth and financial flexibility, Sheppard now has more options at his disposal to continue building the roster entering free agency. Regardless of how they use those options, it's a considerable feat to get to this point given where they were not long ago.