Houston Rockets: John Wall’s Season Review

Fifth in a series reviewing the performance of Rockets players during the 2021-22 season.

Contract status: Has one season, worth $47.1 million remaining on his contract.

Key statistics: Wall didn’t play last season. He averaged 19.1 points on 43.1% shooting, 32.3% shooting, as well as 6.9 assists in 2020-21.

What we learned: The Rockets found what they probably could have already guessed; that negotiating Wall’s huge salary would be difficult for a variety of reasons. The Rockets had a few opportunities in January and were given the chance to sell Wall to the Lakers for a 2027 first-round pick and corresponding Russell Westbrook contract) at the deadline, but those deals weren’t done with teams going in other directions or the Lakers opting to get away with Westbrook rather than give up an unprotected pick. The Rockets were willing to eat Westbrook’s contract for an asset potentially as good as an unprotected pick. They would have taken over several players if one could be considered part of the plan. But neither the team nor Wall wanted to discuss a buyout.

Wall didn’t want to play a lesser role, as Eric Gordon had to start the season and Dennis Schröder did so after the trade deadline, especially if it meant getting out of tight games no matter how they were going in the name of development. The Rockets accepted that, with the growth of their young guards being the priority. When the media reported a meeting with general manager Rafael Stone during the season, they ignored that they spoke often throughout the season. There was never much momentum toward a revised deal that would have Wall playing.

Wall was with the team for the first few months and was active and committed to helping young teammates during games. He went home for the holidays but did not return until the last game of the season. This change in the teammate coaching plan also came with an agreement with the team, particularly with the Rockets at the time optimistic about completing a trade.

What awaits us: The Rockets will resume trade talks in hopes of finding a home in Wall. With only one season left on his contract, the chances of a trade are a bit better than they were last season. But Wall has only played 72 games over the past four seasons. Trades will always be difficult because teams with players who owe that kind of salary usually need players they are willing to pay that much. The Rockets would take over a bad contract, but Wall will earn so much next season that matching salaries for a trade will likely take several players with big contracts. Few teams have players earning as much as they can trade with a point guard who might need to be a role player.

Evaluation: While it might be disappointing that Wall didn’t spend the entire season in a mentoring role as originally planned, no one could blame him. He was not ready to become a player development assistant and since the Rockets were trying to trade him, his priority had to be on training to make up for a lack of play. The question is whether he and the Rockets will spend a another season with Wall sitting pending a trade or whether they will move into buyout talks.


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April 13: Alperen Sengun
April 14: Josh Christopher
April 15: Mathews Garrison
April 16: David Nwaba

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