Not long ago, All-Star point guards Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall were saddled with three of the NBA’s worst contracts. The Houston Rockets traded Paul for Westbrook and then Westbrook for Wall in a terrible series of events over the last two years, losing the rights to three first-round draught picks in the process. Since then, both Paul and Westbrook have been moved for genuine assets, raising the question of whether any NBA contract is truly untradable.
John Wall is putting the NBA’s non-transferable contract to the test
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Wall and the Rockets have amicably agreed to split ways, pending the pursuit of a trade partner for the oft-injured 31-year-talents. old’s The news of Wall’s availability, combined with the lack of any stated takeover plans, was welcomed with some variation of, “Good luck.” Since Christmas 2018, Wall has played 41 games, the most he’s played in a season since 2016-17. Last season, he had the poorest shooting efficiency of anyone who took at least 14 shots per game, averaging 20.6 points on 40/32/75 shooting splits. On the 17-win Rockets, he had to take 18, so he did. Keep in mind that Victor Oladipo was more efficient during his brief time in Houston, and he is now on a one-year deal. This season and next, Wall will earn $91.7 million, making him the league’s second-highest paid player behind Stephen Curry. By no fault of his own, the former No. 1 choice is the most overpaid player in the NBA. Knee injuries kept up with Wall’s lightning speed, which helped him become a five-time All-Star from the start of his career.
After a bruised right knee turned into tendinitis a month into his rookie season, he missed the first half of the 2012-13 season due to a stress fracture in his left kneecap. Both knees required offseason surgery by May 2016. In January 2018, the left knee required yet another operation. A year later, he needed season-ending surgery on his left heel, and a month later, he stumbled at home and tore his left Achilles’ tendon. Wall’s four-year, $171 million supermax agreement, which he signed in July 2017, did not begin until after the surgery that forced him to miss the whole 2019-20 season. In their December 2020 trade for Westbrook, the Wizards attached a lottery-protected 2023 first-round draught selection to Wall’s deal, which seems like highway robbery in retrospect. The Rockets are now eager to get rid of Wall, and any trade might result in them losing even more first-round choices. As part of the Paul-Westbrook trade, Houston still owes the Oklahoma City Thunder its first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, as well as a first-round pick exchange in 2025. Despite this, the Rockets own nine first-round picks over the next seven years, having recouped a large portion of their draught capital in last year’s James Harden trade. Is it really worth it for Houston to part with even more of the meagre assets it obtained in the Harden deal merely to see the Paul for Westbrook for Wall cycle come to an end? The only player left on the Rockets as a result of the Harden deal is Dante Exum, and the first-round picks they obtained are all attached to the 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks and the 2022 title favourite Brooklyn Nets, meaning none of them will ever be selected in the lottery. “The Rockets do not want to give up first-round draught compensation in a Wall trade and would not be interested in negotiating a buyout until maybe after free agency next summer,” according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Finding a team willing to commit 40% of next year’s projected $119 million salary cap to a 32-year-old who has been unavailable for 192 of a possible 260 games since January 2018 and wildly inefficient in his brief appearances between would be necessary to avoid a deeper dive into their draught capital.
In other words, it necessitates locating teams with either $35.4 million in bad contracts or teams that are attempting to lose. The latter puts Wall in a similar predicament, allowing him to recoup his value on a bad club. Unless, of course, he can find a team willing to buy out the remaining $91.7 million on his contract, as the Thunder did with the remaining $73.7 million on Kemba Walker’s contract over the same time frame last month. Walker lost $20 million in the process, but was able to recoup $17.9 million on a two-year deal with the New York Knicks. Walker, on the other hand, has only been out of the league for 19 months, while Wall has been out for 43 months. The number of clubs planning to tank this season is short, especially when the Rockets are excluded, and the Thunder have already committed $27.4 million in dead salary cap to Walker. Raise your hand if you believe Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers or the DeVos family of the Orlando Magic would be willing to pay John Wall $40 million to not play for their clubs. The Detroit Pistons have already gotten rid of their worst contracts, and almost every other team will be aiming for a playoff berth to begin the season.
The Cavaliers and Magic are also two of the few clubs with unrestricted free agents to trade for Wall. D’Angelo Russell isn’t a distressed enough value for the Minnesota Timberwolves to include him in a trade for Wall, especially given his relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns. There isn’t much of a market to speak of. The Los Angeles Clippers may legally trade for Wall since Eric Bledsoe ($3.9 million guaranteed next season), Luke Kennard ($14.8 million team option in 2024-25), and Serge Ibaka are due $40.6 million of their combined $73 million guaranteed this season. Even at his best, Wall won’t get the Clippers any closer to a championship this season, when Kawhi Leonard is mending his torn ACL, and do the Clippers really want to spend $132 million on three guys next season, sacrificing depth for one player who might not even be available? Throughout his career, Wall has fluctuated between league-average and far below-average 3-point shooting, settling at 32 percent on a career-high 6.2 attempts last season — hardly a floor spacer for Leonard and Paul George. Rajon Rondo is a good passer, but that wasn’t enough to get him serious postseason minutes with the Clippers in 2021.
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