How many times have seen the Washington Wizards jump to the top of the fold?
Last night was one of the few times when they did just that when they traded John Wall and a protected first round pick to Houston for Russell Westbrook.
Sources: Protection on the first-round pick that the Wizards traded to Houston in Russell Westbrook/John Wall trade: 2023, Lottery; 2024, Top 12; 2025, Top 10; 2026, Top 8; then becomes two second-rounders.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 3, 2020
It’s not a secret that the Wizards want to do everything they can to keep Bradley Beal. The only way that can happen is by proving to him that Washington can be a contending team. Sneaking into the playoffs in the 7th or 8th spot isn’t going to get it done.
It’s why the gamble on Westbrook somewhat makes sense. Westbrook is reunited with his old coach who can run a system that he’s familiar with. It’s a better fit than the Houston Rockets and their stagnant offense.
Getting rid of John Wall wasn’t easy. Yes, it’s been well publicized that there has been friction between Wall and Beal, to what level we will probably never know.
After the two years of being hurt, it’s understandable that the Washington front office wanted to give a Wall-Beal backcourt every chance to succeed.
Could Wall and Beal ever co-exist on the court? Does moving Wall help the organization keep Beal? And there’s a myriad of other on-the-court questions.
For as much as some wanted to move on from Wall, it can’t be ignored what he brought a franchise who was mightily struggling.
I am very grateful to @JohnWall and his family for all they have done for our franchise and our community. John was the first player picked in the NBA draft and the first player we were blessed to pick under our new ownership of the @WashWizards a decade ago. https://t.co/CJCdDfQXqn
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) December 3, 2020
Three times Wall and the Wizards got eliminated in the second round. In 2014, they were eliminated by the Indiana Pacers, 4-2 but it was the 2015 playoffs that was as a dagger.
The Wizards were tied 2-2 with the Atlanta Hawks before losing games 5 and 6 by one possession. The loss went beyond just that series. If Washington makes it to the Eastern Conference Finals, does Paul Pierce stay? In the playoffs, Pierce averaged 14.6 ppg. He was a dependable third option that you could legitimately run your offense through late in games.
If Pierce does Washington become attractive for a vet willing to take the minimum to have a chance to get over the top? We will never know because Pierce would jettison back home to join the Los Angeles Clippers.
Two seasons later, the Wizards would be in a game 7 at Boston but, once again, they came up short.
Had the Wizards won one of those series, history would probably be different. Wall and Beal probably would find a way to play together. Washington might’ve become a destination organization but that didn’t happen.
Some teams would’ve ripped it down to the studs. They would’ve moved Beal and Davis Bertans, who would’ve fetched, at least, one first round pick at last season’s trade deadline. That would’ve meant that trading Wall would’ve been much tougher but he probably would’ve wanted to stay because the team would’ve been built in his image.
There’s no rebuild in Leonsis’ blood. At least, not right now so while he has Beal under contract he decided to take a chance on Westbrook whose better days are probably behind him.
2016-17 MVP. 9x NBA All-Star. 9x All-NBA. 2x NBA scoring champion.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) December 3, 2020
With that being said, this can work. If Westbrook will go back to relying on his mid-range game and aggressive drives to the basket, he can be impactful with Beal and Bertans ready to receive the ball in action or spotted up for three.
It’s important that Westbrook doesn’t alienate the locker room by holding everyone accountable except for himself.
The rest of the roster is a healthy mix of veterans and young guys. Bringing in Robin Lopez will help Washington manage Thomas Bryant’s minutes. Bryant is an energy guy who could benefit from not going over 30 minutes a night.
The addition on Anthony Gill brings a level of toughness. He also expanded his offensive game in Europe.
Success will depend how the younger players perform on a nightly basis. Rui Hachamuri, Isaac Bongo, and Troy Brown Jr. will need to play productive minutes.
It will take time to see how head coach Scott Brooks uses Deni Avdija and Raul Neto.
Over the next two seasons, the Wizards will need to have a measure to success if they want to have any chance in keeping Beal. The Westbrook deal signals GM Tommy Sheppard and Ted Leonsis are willing to do anything necessary to keep the team competitive.
It’s on Wizards fans to “Trust the Process”.