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Kristian Winfield: 4 teams that make the most sense if Rockets trade John Wall

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

Veteran point guard John Wall and the Houston Rockets have reportedly reached an agreement on the inevitable: The Rockets will trade their former All-Star ... whenever the opportunity presents itself.

So far, however, that has appeared near impossible. Wall is due an atrocious $92 million over the next two seasons. Only two players are set to make more than him in the 2021-22 NBA season: Stephen Curry and James Harden.

On a league-worst Rockets team tattered in the aftermath of the Harden deal to the Nets, Wall averaged 20.6 points, seven assists and 1.1 steals last season.

Not max-player numbers by a longshot, but not scrub numbers either.

At his peak, Wall was regularly mentioned among the league’s premier point guards, stringing together an average about 20 points and 10 assists over a three-year span.

Then came the knee surgeries. Then came the heel injury. Then came the ever-so feared ruptured Achilles in an at-home accident.

His injury history is so extensive the Rockets have decided to shelf him to preserve his trade value, rather than play him and risk re-injury to improve it, according to The Athletic.

That setup works for both parties on a number of fronts. The Rockets went guard-heavy in the 2021 NBA draft, selecting Jalen Green second-overall and Josh Christopher 24th. Wall will be with the team during training camp, per The Athletic, and will play a mentorship role with the rookies.

Keeping Wall away from the team when the games begin, however, works in Houston’s favor by keeping the spotlight away from him and, of course, mitigating his re-injury risk. It also gives the Rockets time to assess the landscape and see which teams are in dire need of a point guard mid-season.

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DALLAS MAVERICKS

The Mavericks have yet to pair Luka Doncic with a backcourt co-star. Doncic is an easy bet as a future NBA Most Valuable Player, but every 1A needs a 1B, and Kristaps Porzingis has looked more like a third star. The framework of a deal would likely require the Mavericks to surrender Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell and potentially another role player to match Wall’s salary. But a trio of Wall, Doncic and Porzingis would give the Mavericks their best odds at winning a championship since Dirk Nowtizki led Dallas to the promised land in 2010.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

The Pelicans chose against re-signing Lonzo Ball long term, then also missed the other viable starting point guards — Kyle Lowry went to Miami, Spencer Dinwiddie signed with the Wizards and the market soured on Dennis Schroder, who signed at the mid-level with the Celtics. The Pelicans did sign Devonte’ Graham, who averaged 18 points and 7.5 assists in the lead guard role with the Hornets before LaMelo Ball arrived in Charlotte. But Graham is not the playmaker Wall is, and the Pelicans are losing Zion Williamson more and more with each missed postseason. New Orleans can offer any combination of Graham, Jonas Valanciunas, Josh Hart and Tomas Satoransky in a deal for Wall, assuming both Williamson and Brandon Ingram are untouchable.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

There ain’t no fun if the Clippers can’t have some. The Nets and Lakers have separated themselves from the pack by forming legitimate Big Threes surrounded by depths of reserve talent. A trade for Wall could vault the Clippers from Tier 2 up there with the championship favorites. Oddly enough, the Clippers have the contracts to get the deal done. Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson combined to nearly match Wall’s $44 million salary. The questions are whether Wall’s production matches the outgoing players’ and what are the Rockets willing to sweeten the deal with?

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Finally, welcome Wall to Philadelphia, where yesterday’s price is not today’s price. Around this time last year, the 76ers could have had James Harden on their roster if they coughed up Ben Simmons in exchange. Simmons’ market is now colder than his jump shot. He has requested a trade and is reportedly threatening not to report to training camp, but teams have been unwilling to pay the 76ers’ price of young players and draft assets. The Sixers should be more concerned, however, that they’re wasting the precious years of Joel Embiid’s injury-riddled prime. If Simmons is as good as gone, Wall — who is at least willing to shoot 3s and mid-range 2s — adds a legitimate perimeter playmaker to the Sixers, which is exactly what that team needs.

A Wall deal won’t be easy to hash. His contract is gaudier than his numbers, and his injury history has scared off most suitors. What’s clear from what’s coming out of Houston, though, is that a deal will get done. It’s just a matter of when.

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