John Wall will no longer play for the Rockets, so what’s the team’s best move?


John Wall and the Rockets will enter the NBA season in one of the most special arrangements in recent history: Wall, a former No. 1 overall pick and All-Star, will not play, but will remain an active member of the team as a presence on the sidelines of training and matches.

But what will become of Wall? The nearly $ 92 million he is owed over the next two seasons (if he exercises his 2022-2023 player option) is the biggest obstacle to a clean break. That’s a lot of money to pay for any team that trades for Wall and also roughly matches outgoing salary due to collective agreement rules.

The Rockets could buy out Wall’s contract. Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said it was not something the team was considering, but that it would be a route that would not negatively impact the team given that they were on it. pay not to play at this time. However, such a course of action would force the 31-year-old to leave money on the table, which he may not be willing to do unless an attractive opening presents itself elsewhere.

How many teams would be willing to trade for Wall? You don’t even get to the question of whether Wall is still good until you have a threshold question beforehand: How many teams actually need a leader of their lineup?

To be interested in Wall, a team should have short-term title aspirations. Among this subset of NBA teams, one potential contender should have an appetite for a ball-heavy goaltender. Wall has never played off the ball in his NBA career, and most of the league contenders are placed in Wall’s position.

That’s why some of the buzz in recent weeks about a Wall-to-Ben Simmons trade makes sense. Philadelphia sees itself as a contender while Joel Embiid is in his prime and has no veteran ball player on the roster (aside from Simmons himself). More importantly, the market for Simmons – who insists he’ll never play another game for the franchise – doesn’t appear to be as hot as GM Daryl Morey would like.

Simmons’ value is at an all-time low after a playoff flop in which he was scapegoated. It looks like a Wall-centric package, draft picks and young prospects could be the best offer Morey receives for Simmons.

The question for Stone is whether he wants to cash in some of the picks he received from Brooklyn in the James Harden trade for a player with Simmons’ shooting limitations. This premier treasure chest is what the franchise hopes to help it land the final piece of its rebuilding puzzle. It’s a risk to think someone better than Simmons would emerge on the road, and picks instantly lose value the minute Harden signs on the dotted line for an extension to Brooklyn that will keep the Nets in the running for. coming years.

Last offseason, the Rockets acquired Wall (and a future draft pick) from Washington in a trade for Russell Westbrook. The swap was seen as a last-ditch effort to save the Harden era – Westbrook had demanded a swap and it was believed that Wall and Harden wanted to play together.

Incredibly, early last year Wall seemed to have regained much of his mind-blowing speed and athleticism, and his season was statistically respectable. In 40 games, he averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. However, he only shot 40.4% from the ground and 32% from 3 points. Still, it’s no exaggeration to think that Wall can still be a hard-hitting player in this league. His body doesn’t have the mileage of a normal 31-year-old man, and he won’t rack up any wear and tear this season.

Barring a trade with Simmons, the Rockets and Wall will be waiting. Despite what Stone said in September, I think a possible buyout is likely if somewhere else becomes available, either through injury or poor performance. Right now, the Rockets and Wall are happy to bide their time and bide their time.

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