What the Wall-Westbrook trade rumor says about the Wizards' direction


There are so many layers to the trade rumor involving John Wall and Russell Westbrook, so much to unpack, yet all we know at this point is that there were discussions between the Wizards and Rockets involving those players. Even if it doesn't go through, people will be talking about this one for a while. There will be aftershocks.

But really, what it says more than anything is that things are going to be different moving forward for the Wizards. Whether they initiated the talks or not, clearly general manager Tommy Sheppard is preparing to operate much more aggressively than the previous front office regime.

The Wizards for many years have played it safe. They have drafted and developed players. They have put a huge importance on retaining their own guys, and around them they have made minor trades and free agent signings.

What they have rarely done is take risks, the types of big swings that you see from other NBA teams. Think about it, what's the last major trade the Wizards have done? When was the last time they were involved in what would be considered a blockbuster deal?

You might have to go back to 2004 when they acquired Antawn Jamison from Dallas in a deal that included the sixth overall pick and Jerry Stackhouse. Jamison was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but that's nothing like trading for a guy in Westbrook who just made the All-NBA team and three years ago was the MVP.


Big trades just haven't been in the Wizards' nature. Being involved in major trade rumors hasn't even been their style.

Meanwhile, blockbuster trades have become almost a requisite for NBA title contention. Teams like the Lakers, Clippers, Raptors, Celtics and Heat, just to name a few, all made significant trades in their rise to the top of the league.

Sam Presti in Oklahoma City makes a major trade seemingly every offseason. Same with Daryl Morey, who recently left Houston for Philly. As those two have found, some blockbuster trades don't work and some of them backfire in major ways. But the NBA offseason rewards those who gamble smartly.

Now, this wouldn't be your ordinary, push all the chips into the middle of the table-type of trade. This would be the Wizards getting out from a mammoth contract owed to a player with an injury history, and likely at a steep price. The risk would come in whatever they have to attach to Wall to get it done, whether it be a first round pick or multiple assets.

They would also assume risk in moving forward with Westbrook, who would form an unknown fit with Bradley Beal. It could work, or it could be a different type of problem, as Westbrook is two years older than Wall, not an efficient shooter and reliant on his athleticism.

They are owed similar money, but Westbrook is under contract until he's 34. Wall's deal is done when he's 32. Westbrook at 34 doesn't sound great.

Still, the net result would be two healthy stars in Beal and Westbrook to build around. It might be uncomfortable and it might even anger some fans, but that's not a bad duo to start with, especially in the Eastern Conference.

Maybe the risk would be worth it.