Although the Houston Rockets wanted to make it work with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the franchise officially split up the dynamic duo on Thursday. With John Wall heading to Houston, Harden will once again play alongside a perennial All-Star point guard.
While Westbrook now gets to play next to Bradley Beal, he just lost his final chance at winning an NBA title thanks to his former superstar teammate.
Russell Westbrook is heading to Washington
The Rockets made a bold move by trading for Russell Westbrook back in July 2019. While the former Oklahoma City Thunder star put up big numbers in his first season in Houston, he and James Harden fell well short of leading the franchise to an NBA title.
That led to plenty of speculation this offseason about a potential breakup of the two superstar guards. With both players getting connected to trade rumors, it has certainly been a tenuous time to be a Rockets fan.
And on Thursday, Houston finally put an end to the rumor mill by executing a big-time trade. The Rockets announced that the Washington Wizards have agreed to send John Wall and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick to Houston for Westbrook.
Wall missed the entire 2019-20 season and played just 32 games the year prior due to a torn Achilles. The former No. 1 pick earned five consecutive NBA All-Star selections before suffering the gruesome injury.
Westbrook will be heading north to a Washington team that went just 25-47 last season. And as it turns out, James Harden played a major role in his teammate’s departure.
James Harden made it clear who he wanted by his side in Houston
It’s no secret that Russell Westbrook and James Harden weren’t exactly a great fit in Houston. But thanks to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, we now know just how much of a factor Harden played in the Rockets’ decision to trade Westbrook.
After explaining how the deal came to fruition, the NBA insider dropped an interesting nugget during his discussion with Mike Greenberg.
“He [James Harden] had a preference of John Wall over Westbrook,” Wojnarowski said.
Ultimately, the Rockets listened to their franchise player and swapped one All-Star point guard for another. Based on Wojnarowski’s report, it definitely seems like Harden got his wish. And in doing so, he just cost Westbrook his final chance at winning an NBA title.
Harden just cost Westbrook his final chance at an NBA title
Although Wall helped the Wizards reach the playoffs four times in a five-year stretch, Washington has been a disaster in each of the last two seasons. And even when Wall was healthy, the franchise never advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Russell Westbrook may be talented, but it’s hard to imagine that he and Bradley Beal will suddenly transform the Wizards into a championship contender in a conference that includes the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, and Boston Celtics. Plus, the Brooklyn Nets will certainly be better with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back on the floor.
At 32 years old and with nearly 1,000 combined regular season and playoff games under his belt, Westbrook no longer has time on his side. Unless the Wizards add a third star, they have no shot at defeating the better teams in the conference. And if it takes a few years for Washington to build a complete roster, Westbrook will already be past his prime by the time the franchise can legitimately compete for a title.
Meanwhile, Harden and Wall don’t have an easy path to a championship, either. The LA Lakers look primed for a repeat and match up well against the Rockets. It’s difficult to imagine Harden and Wall defeating LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a seven-game playoff series.
Ultimately, though, the biggest loser in this situation is Russell Westbrook. Because by getting traded to Washington, he has no shot at winning an NBA title. Barring a trade to a true contender, the nine-time All-Star will end up retiring without a ring.