Bizarre John Wall-to-Clippers trade that can actually work
The LA Clippers have had a quiet free agency. They’ve quickly came to terms on a deal with Nicolas Batum, and recently reached agreements with Reggie Jackson as well as Kawhi Leonard. While the team has been pretty cap-strapped this offseason, their main goals have been to retain the free agents from last year’s team. By all accounts, Leonard and Jackson are expected to re-sign with LA sooner rather than later. They still, however, need a secondary ball-handler and scorer. Enter John Wall.
It has not been made official yet, but the expectation is that Kawhi Leonard misses most of the 2021-22 season as he recovers from a partially torn ACL. He underwent surgery in July, and the reconstruction was reportedly similar to a full ACL tear. With Leonard out, the Clippers will be missing a dominant piece both offensive and defensively. In the postseason, the Clippers showed, at least at times, that they can get by on the defensive end without Leonard. Offensively is where they found a lot of their struggles.
Good looks were hard to come by once Kawhi Leonard went down, and points were even harder to find. Paul George and Reggie Jackson carried the bulk of the scoring as well as the playmaking load, but they shouldn’t be relied on to handle that over an 82-game season. That’s where John Wall would come in.
Fresh off of an Achilles tear, John Wall made his long-awaited return to the court and showed that he could still play at a high level. His athleticism was there, his off the dribble game looked good, and while he played in 40 of the Houston Rockets’ 62 games last season, the final 11 games he missed was a clear benching to tank and let the young players develop.
John Wall finished last season averaging 20.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 40.4 percent shooting from the field. The efficiency wasn’t there, but this is a guy coming off a two-year layoff due to injury and playing on a bad team.
The Rockets drafted Jalen Green (19 years old), Alperen Sengun (19 years old), Usman Garuba (19 years old), and Josh Christopher (19 years old) to a team with centerpieces Kevin Porter Jr. (21 years old) and Christian Wood (25 years old). The soon-to-be 31 year old John Wall, while talented, simply does not fit anywhere into this Rockets’ timeline. Additionally, the Rockets would love to get off the remaining $91,677,600 million he’s owed over the next two seasons. That’s where the LA Clippers could come in.
The Clippers’ only avenues to improve their team this offseason is by trading for guys already under contract. Taking in any player via a sign-and-trade would be an incredibly complicated amount of pieces moving and would hard-cap them. Any player they sign via free agency would have to be for the veteran’s minimum or the taxpayer mid-level exception they still have to offer. Whatever slim chance the Clippers had of getting John Wall following a potential buyout went out the window when they used their taxpayer mid-level exception on Justise Winslow. Their options were very limited in free agency.
Trading for John Wall would require a handful of players to be involved, but a deal isn’t impossible by any means.
Luke Kennard’s $13.3 million, Patrick Beverley’s $14.3 million, and Rajon Rondo’s $8.3 million should be enough to get the deal done, and the Clippers could add in a few players from the end of the roster to round out the deal. The biggest questions the Clippers will face are, 1) Is John Wall worth gutting the roster’s depth for and, 2) How will that affect team chemistry moving forward.
Luke Kennard is a talented young scorer who is still coming into his own. Patrick Beverley was an invaluable player to put on Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell in the postseason. The cerebral Rajon Rondo brings an edge and high basketball IQ, even though he may drive some fans nuts with his play.
As we’ve seen over the last few seasons with the Chris Paul trade, the Russell Westbrook trades, and the John Wall trades, teams looking to unload those massive contracts often have to include a draft pick to get deals done. Whether the Rockets would have to include a pick in this deal is unclear, but with at least five incoming first round draft picks and three first round pick swaps, per Real GM, the Rockets have loads of assets to get any deal they want done.
Additionally, the Clippers were very satisfied with the role DeMarcus Cousins played behind Ivica Zubac as well as Serge Ibaka last year, both on and off the court. It wouldn’t at all be surprising to see both sides agreeing to run it back, especially considering Serge Ibaka underwent season-ending back surgery and Ivica Zubac suffered a sprained MCL late in the postseason.
Cousins is one of Wall’s closest friends dating back to their Kentucky days. They teamed up briefly with the Rockets last year before Houston let Cousins go to ride Christian Wood at center full time. Another reason why a trade bringing John Wall to the LA Clippers would make sense.
Lmao John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are having a blast with the Rockets 🤣 pic.twitter.com/PrItAALtlJ
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 5, 2021
John Wall even came to a Clippers game this postseason and sat alongside Paul George’s parents courtside.
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) May 22, 2021
And of course, what’s better than the old ‘player likes a tweet about him being traded to this team!’ That happened with Wall earlier this offseason.
In all seriousness, a John Wall-to-Clippers trade makes all the sense in the world for both sides. The point guard market has essentially dried up everywhere and Wall’s only got two years left on his deal, with the second being a player option. While the Clippers aren’t expected to compete for a championship with Kawhi Leonard out, they’ll remain competitive and should be able to reach the playoffs with a Paul George-John Wall led team.
And who knows? Maybe Kawhi Leonard makes a miraculously speedy recovery and is somehow able to return late in this season. A core led by Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and John Wall sounds pretty dangerous.