One of the most successful and memorable eras in the history of the Wizards/Bullets franchise is now over, as on Wednesday the team traded five-time All-Star John Wall with a protected 2023 first round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for former MVP Russell Westbrook. The news was first reported by ESPN.
Wall departs Washington after 10 years with the organization. They drafted him first overall in 2010 out of the University of Kentucky.
“Having the opportunity to acquire a player of Russell’s caliber and character was something that we could not pass up when looking at both the immediate and long-term future of our team,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “With that said, the decision to part ways with John, one of the greatest players in franchise history, was extremely difficult. What he has meant to our organization and our community is immeasurable and will not be forgotten.”
Wall joined the franchise soon after the infamous gun incident involving Gilbert Arenas and after the team had cratered in the standings. By selecting him, the Wizards were able to turn the page and build a new foundation.
Wall led a team that developed into a perennial playoff contender and one that was not associated with off-court problems, but instead charitable efforts. He won the NBA's community assist award in 2016 for his own contributions.
In addition to making five All-Star teams with the Wizards, Wall also made the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams. He teamed up with Bradley Beal to push the Wizards into the playoffs four out of five seasons from 2013 to 2018. They made the second round three times, which represented the most playoff success for the franchise since the 1970s.
After that fourth playoff appearance in 2018, injuries took their toll on Wall and the team was pulled down with him. He had multiple knee surgeries, a procedure to remove bone spurs from his heel and, most notably, a ruptured Achilles tendon. The 2020-21 season was supposed to be his triumphant return to the Wizards, who had been waiting nearly two years to have him back.
But things soured between Wall and the team in the lead-up to the 2020-21 campaign as trade talks between the Wizards and the Houston Rockets leaked in the media. It was not long after that he reportedly requested a trade.
Ultimately, the Wizards decided to honor his request, but only after general manager Tommy Sheppard said in a press conference the team had "no plans" to trade Wall. Clearly, plans changed as the new season loomed and the potential for a distraction cast a shadow over the organization.
The Wizards had to attach a pick to move Wall, which says plenty about their point of leverage. His injury history, supermax contract and the public knowledge he wanted out made it a difficult road for the Wizards to navigate.
In return, the Wizards get Westbrook, who is two years older but does not have the injury history. Their contracts are similar, so the money was able to match.
It was a tough pill for the Wizards to swallow and not a place they would have preferred to be. But now he is off with another team and perhaps a fresh start, while the Wizards can move on and establish a new identity without him.