It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the Houston Rockets and John Wall have mutually agreed to work on finding a new home for the five-time All-Star.
Like Blake Griffin a year ago for the Detroit Pistons (who was reportedly briefly a trade candidate for Wall), this means he’ll be stepping aside from his on-court duties to allow Houston’s youth movement to take precedence.
The NBA’s hottest trend involves vets stepping away from their team hoping for a trade. The Houston Rockets and John Wall are the most recent candidates.
Wall’s job won’t be difficult. He’ll need to stay in shape and not do anything away from the court that could tank what menial trade value he has on his gargantuan contract. Rockets general manager Rafael Stone has a tougher task in trying to move that deal which currently has two years and $91.7 million remaining.
Last season, Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists with shooting splits of 40-32-75 in 40 games. He’s played a total of 113 games in the past four seasons, missing the interrupted 2019-20 season entirely, scarcely showing more than glimpses of the former All-Star’s explosive athleticism.
He’s battled injuries in his career, suffering from bone spurs in his heel almost immediately after signing his supermax extension in 2017, and following that up with a torn Achilles, swiftly making his four-year, $170 million contract one of the worst in NBA history.
The Rockets acquired him from the Washington Wizards in a trade for Russell Westbrook, with the Rockets also receiving a protected 2023 first-round pick. Westbrook has since been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for a host of players including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell, while Wall languishes in Houston on the team with the NBA’s worst record a season ago.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, no buyout is in the works, which means the Houston Rockets will likely have to find a taker for that whole monstrosity of a contract in a trade. Wall is a non-shooter, with a career field-goal percentage of 43.1 and a 3-point percentage of 32.3, and thanks to his injuries his athleticism and mobility have taken a hit. If that deal was excessive when it was signed, it’s an unjustifiable expense for any team now when mid-tier point guards can be found fairly easily on the trade market and in free agency every season.
Last season Blake Griffin gave the Pistons $13.3 million in his buyout, but this year’s crop of perceived buyout candidates don’t seem inclined to surrender a dollar, even in the hopes of clinging on with a title contender and riding LeBron James or Kevin Durant’s coattails to a championship.
Like Wall, Kevin Love is another player who seems to be on the way out with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but facilitating a buyout isn’t something he’s inclined to do. Players have every right to the full amount of their guaranteed contracts, of course, but Love and Wall may be in for a surprise if they think they have significant trade value, or any trade value whatsoever.
In the case of both teams, they may be better off just sitting on their hands and letting the clock run out on both deals over the course of the next couple of years, rather than incentivizing other teams to take these albatross contracts.