Things are going very well for Russell Westbrook, the Washington Wizards’ new starting point guard this season. Things aren’t going so well for his predecessor whom Washington traded for just a few months ago.
The Washington Wizards are currently one of the hottest NBA teams right now. They have won nine of their last ten games. Bradley Beal is the NBA’s leading per game scorer. Daniel Gafford’s trade deadline deal is nothing less than a grand slam home run for General Manager Tommy Sheppard. And Russell Westbrook, another first-year Wizard, is probably going to average a triple-double this season. Because of the Wizards’ rise in the standings and power rankings in April, we’re openly wondering if the Wizards can make the playoffs at this point.
All of that said, things aren’t going so well for the player whom the Wizards traded for last November: John Wall.
The news came out a few days ago on Apr. 26, but it wasn’t breaking Wizards news. And on a personal note, I had the second shot of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine which has given me some mild, yet lingering and annoying side effects such as “Garfield the Cat” syndrome. Not the real-life feline obesity named after cartoon — but rather … I really felt more like the world’s favorite cartoon cat at his best, especially when I wanted to sleep and be a lasagna-eating slob all week. And every time I heard the doorbell ring, I thought it was Binky the Clown, seriously!
But I digress.
Anyway, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the now-Rockets point guard suffered a Grade 2 right hamstring strain after Houston’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Apr. 23. It is unfortunate to see Wall’s first season back from a left Achilles injury end early. But Wall missed a number of games due to various ailments in both of his knees particularly his right one. Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game for Houston this season.
And all of that leads me to this question, even if it is rhetorical at this point: Do you think it was the right decision for the Wizards to trade Wall to the Rockets for Westbrook, knowing where Washington is at this point?
Until very recently, many Wizards fans weren’t exactly 100 percent welcoming of Westbrook. From one point of view, it stinks to be the guy whom Washington traded a franchise point guard for, even if Westbrook was the 2016-17 NBA MVP and was an All-NBA player last season. But again, Wizards fans viewed Westbrook to be a stats-hawk above anything else, partly because of the national narrative surrounding him.
That said, if the Wizards kept Wall and knew he would miss time due to various minor injuries, would that have forced them to trade Beal at the deadline in March? After all, I firmly believed the Wizards would have remained a lottery-bound team this season if they didn’t execute the Wall for Westbrook trade, even if Wall somehow got back to his 2016-17 form down the line. That’s because I didn’t expect Wall to hit his All-Star form until next season if he gets back to that point again. And even with Wall playing most of this season, Houston is just 16-47, last in the Western Conference. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that the Wizards would be in a similar spot.
Sure, the Wizards would have a better shot at Cade Cunningham for the top overall pick. But the rest of the team would have been pretty demoralized at this point. And if Cunningham came to Washington, well, the Oklahoma State product can play point guard too. Yeah, that would have made things kinda weird for everyone this October… So maybe it’s a good thing that Washington’s chances at a top draft pick now are quite slim.
In closing, now that we know the Wizards appear to be better-positioned for the playoffs today, do you think the Westbrook trade was the right call? At the very least, given Washington’s short-term goals which they have stated all along, I think the clear answer would be a yes.