Just a few weeks before the start of the 2020-2021 regular season, the NBA offseason delivered an early holiday gift for fans of blockbuster trades and eye-popping drama.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets traded star point guard Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for fellow star point guard John Wall and a first-round pick.
The move paves the way for a University of Kentucky reunion between Wall and center DeMarcus Cousins, while giving Wall the chance to further establish himself as an elite point guard with James Harden by his side.
The trade was the second involving Westbrook in less than two years, coming just 17 months after the former league MVP was traded by the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Rockets.
On the other end, the earth-shattering exchange ends an era out in D.C., as the dynamic duo of Wall and guard Bradley Beal turns into a curious combination of Beal and Westbrook.
>>FROM NOVEMBER 2020: Houston, you have a problem: What’s next for Russell Westbrook and the Rockets?
However, perhaps the biggest piece of the trade doesn’t even play in the NBA yet.
The first-round pick that the Rockets landed in the swap seemingly gives Houston the upper-hand when looking at the bigger picture of the deal, as the franchise gets rid of a disgruntled star in favor of a top-tier replacement and a chance to build towards the future.
While the 2020-2021 college basketball season has plenty of question marks surrounding it due to COVID-19, the Rockets already possess two first-round picks for the 2021 NBA Draft, and now add an additional pick for the 2023 NBA Draft, as well.
Even if either draft class turns out to be weak, the franchise will either have multiple chances to pick up a future superstar in each draft, or the ability to package some of those picks for an All-Star forward or center to complete their lineup.
All in all, the Rockets seem to be the immediate winner of the deal, while the Wizards have to wait and see if their high-risk investment in Westbrook will pay off in their pursuit of a playoff push in the Eastern Conference.