With training camp just a few weeks away, the NBA world is starting to buzz again. On Tuesday, we learned that John Wall will reportedly not play again for the Houston Rockets. After a recent meeting between the veteran point guard and the club, the two sides agreed that parting ways would be mutually beneficial.
For now, the Rockets are thinking only of a trade, and there are no plans for a buyout in the works. Wall will be present for training camp and will remain with the team in order to maintain his fitness until the Rockets can figure out a trade. When that will happen, however, is anyone’s guess.
When you consider Wall’s age, injury history, declining play and massive contract, a trade is going to be very difficult to pull off. That’s to say nothing of the likelihood that Wall prefers to go to a contender at this stage of his career, which would further complicate matters.
That the Rockets hope to “do right” by Wall, according to a report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, seems to be further evidence that they’ll try to trade him to a winning situation. Just as an exercise, start running through some of the better teams.
He’s not going to the Nets or the Bucks, the Celtics won’t want to take on that sort of money, the Hawks have Trae Young, the Heat just traded for Kyle Lowry and the Knicks added Kemba Walker. Out West, the Jazz and Suns re-signed Mike Conley and Chris Paul, respectively, the Warriors have Steph Curry, Damian Lillard still wants to play for the Trail Blazers and Wall doesn’t make sense for the Nuggets. Admittedly the Lakers initiating another Wall-for-Russell Westbrook swap would be hilarious, but we can rule them out as well.
As you can see, you start running out of teams pretty quickly. The old cliche is that there’s no truly untradeable contract in the NBA, but Wall might put that to the test. He’s no longer his former All-NBA self but is still being paid like it; the only player set to make more than him over the next two seasons is Curry. Any team interested in trading for him would not only have to be willing to fit the bill, but also would need enough matching salaries to pull off a trade.
Neither side is interested in a buyout because the Rockets are hoping to get something back for Wall, and he doesn’t want to give up any of his money. But if there’s no available deal in the next few months, and both parties start itching for a way out, they might have to take that route.
But for now, with a trade being the preferred option, here’s a look at some potential fits, scarce as they might be:
This might be the only situation where you can make a case that a trade would be welcomed by both the team and Wall. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined for at least the majority of the upcoming season, the Clippers are going to need some help, while Wall would welcome the chance to play for a playoff team again.
Flipping Bledsoe, who they just acquired this offseason, would be no problem for the Clippers, and in the process they could get out from under the cumbersome Kennard contract. If healthy, Wall would provide some extra scoring and playmaking that could help the Clippers remain competitive without Leonard.
The Rockets could try to flip Bledsoe themselves, but even if they can’t his contract for 2022-23 is only partially guaranteed, which would save them money. Kennard, meanwhile, is still young enough that he could fit into their rebuild. Either way, there’s some potential value here for Houston.
Dallas receives: John Wall, first-round pickHouston receives: Kristaps Porzingis, filler salary
Another Western Conference team that could take a chance on Wall is the Mavericks. Luka Doncic is already one of the best players in the league, but we saw during the playoffs that his brilliance can only get the team so far. He needs more help if the Mavs want to actually make some noise.
At first glance, the Doncic-Wall fit could be a little tricky when they’re on the floor together. Wall actually shot 38.1 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s last season, however, and would give the Mavericks a much needed secondary playmaker and scorer. Whether it’s worth giving up Porzingis is another question.
Neither the Mavericks nor the big man are all that thrilled about how things have gone since he was acquired from the Knicks. In theory he’s a great fit with Doncic, but we’ve only seen the partnership thrive in spurts. In the playoffs last season, Porzingis was largely irrelevant.
While Porzingis has struggled in recent seasons and can’t seem to stay healthy, he’s still an enticing young player the Rockets could try to fold into their rebuild or send somewhere else for other pieces.
Philadelphia receives: John Wall, first-round pick from Houston, first-round pick from SacramentoHouston receives: Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley IIISacramento receives: Ben Simmons, filler salary from Sixers to make the money work
A straight swap between the Sixers and Rockets feels unlikely for a few reasons, namely the Rockets could have had Ben Simmons last year in the James Harden deal if they really wanted him. Still, with Simmons trying to force his way out of Philadelphia, you have to at least include the Sixers in the conversation here. To do that, what about a potential three-team trade involving the Sacramento Kings — a team that has been in the mix regarding Simmons?
Of course, this all hinges on the Sixers actually wanting Wall, and it’s not clear if they do. Or if they’d be willing to take that sort of return for Simmons. But with his trade value sinking by the day, and his threats of a holdout lingering over the team, the Sixers might have to take what they can get. If they do give up Simmons, however, they’d need other assets besides just Wall, perhaps first-round picks from each club.
The Kings’ interest here is obvious. They could get an All-Star for two players they’ve been trying to trade for a while and a first-round pick. Even in a tough Western Conference, Simmons’ arrival would give them a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
As for the Rockets, Hield and Bagley would be a solid return for Wall. Hield is a player many contenders would want, and could be easily flipped for more assets to continue the rebuild. Bagley, meanwhile, fits their timeline and still has a lot of talent even if he hasn’t lived up to his potential.