The Rockets are out to the worst start in franchise history, and a healthy John Wall has yet to suit up for a game.
After early-season reports indicated that Wall and the Rockets mutually agreed that he would not play as the team sought a trade, the five-time All-Star’s patience appears to be running thin.
After the Rockets suffered their 15th straight loss of the season on Monday, Nov. 22, Wall took to Twitter to respond to two tweets regarding his situation.
“Did not dress,” Wall wrote, offering a correction to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, who called Wall’s situation “pretty wild.”
No less than 10 minutes later did Wall retweet the support of a user that said “you getting punished for something you can’t control.”
Given the Rockets’ abysmal start to the season and Wall’s recent tweets, should the franchise change its course in approaching Wall’s situation? As with most everything, there are pros and cons to playing the 31-year-old this season.
Should the Rockets play John Wall this season?
With 10 players that have three years of NBA experience or less, it’s clear that this is a Rockets team that is focused on building for the future.
That being said, there is no turning back after losing 16 of their first 17 games, meaning Houston will be lottery-bound for a second straight season. It’s not a tank so much as it is a focus on the development of young players, which, in turn, comes with an abundance of losses and lessons learned.
Does John Wall playing stand in the way of the rebuild?
Last season, Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 rebounds over 40 games with the Rockets, but he didn’t play well enough to make them a fringe playoff team.
In fact, with Wall active for over half of its games, Houston still ended with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, which it used to draft a future franchise cornerstone in Jalen Green.
That said, Wall has only come off the bench 12 times in his 10 years playing, and the Rockets’ focus has been on developing Kevin Porter Jr. as their point guard of the future. Should Wall return and dominate the ball as a feature guard, would that stand in the way of Porter’s development into a starting-caliber guard?
Could the decision to play John Wall open up the trade market?
It’s no secret that Wall’s contract is the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a deal getting done. He’s owed over $44 million this season and all reports indicate he plans to exercise his player option worth $47.4 million for the 2022-23 campaign.
But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that no contract is untradeable.
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Wall’s numbers during the 2020-21 campaign were good, but he lacked the impactful star power put on display during the peak of his powers with the Wizards. After not playing for nearly two calendar years with injury, perhaps that version of Wall no longer exists, but he could play up his trade value with a return to the floor.
Is John Wall not playing because of his injury history?
The contracts that were once deemed “untradeable” were almost exclusively because of two factors: a high salary figure and an injury-riddled past.
Ahead of the 2019-20 season, Chris Paul was written off as being done due to his injuries but he returned to an All-Star level with the Thunder, which prompted the Suns to trade for him. Last season, Kemba Walker’s knee issues kept him from being a difference-maker with the Celtics, but that same Thunder franchise was willing to take on his contract with the sweetener of draft capital before ultimately buying him out.
It would appear that the only way the Rockets could prove to a potential suitor that Wall is still durable and capable of being a positive addition is by playing him enough to prove himself. At that point, it would be on Wall to perform at a high level and a franchise to think he’s the missing piece for a title run.
Given the amount of moving pieces in this situation, the Wall saga is only beginning.