Rapid Reaction: John Wall/Russell Westbrook Trade (2020-21 Fantasy Basketball)
In one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the year, Houston will send Russell Westbrook to the Wizards in exchange for John Wall and a 2023 protected first-round pick. Wall missed all of the 2019-20 season while recovering from a torn Achilles, while Westbrook, the former MVP, will start for his third team in as many years and be reunited with former coach Scott Brooks in the nation’s capital.
The deal has sent shockwaves through the NBA, but what does it mean for the fantasy basketball landscape in 2020-21? Our experts break it down for you here.
The NBA world was caught by surprise on Wednesday night when the Wizards’ agreed to trade John Wall and a protected first-round pick to the Rockets’ in exchange for Russell Westbrook. This trade certainly has the potential to shift the fantasy basketball outlook for multiple players as we inch closer to the start of the season.
Having not stepped foot on an NBA court since December of 2018, there were already multiple questions surrounding John Wall heading into the season and this trade further complicates his fantasy outlook. Wall has primarily thrived with the ball in his hands and his ability to get to the rim at will has allowed him to mask the fact that he is a career 32% shooter from three. Now playing alongside one of the most ball-dominant players in the league in James Harden, it will be interesting to see if he can be as effective playing off the ball. Even if the 30-year-old point guard can return to his pre-injury form, his fantasy value will surely take a hit now that he is in Houston.
Russell Westbrook thrived in Houston’s small-ball experiment last season, averaging 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, all while playing alongside the ball-dominant James Harden. Now a member of the Washington Wizards and officially reunited with his former OKC head coach Scott Brooks, Westbrook and his downhill style of play should be a great complement to a Wizards’ squad who finished top-seven in PACE factor last season, averaging 105.2 possessions a game. Combine that with the fact that Bradley Beal is one of the best off-ball threats in the league and Westbrook should spend a lot of time with the ball in his hands. All of this bodes well for his fantasy value heading into the season.
After averaging a career-high 30.5 points and 6.1 assists per game last season on a beat-up Wizards’ squad, Bradley Beal finished with the sixth-highest usage rate in the league. The only five players to rank ahead of him were Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Trae Young and wait for it….. Russell Westbrook. His arrival in Washington will certainly put a lid on Beal’s fantasy ceiling, though the Wizards’ have made it clear that it is now his team and they are intent on building around him. While Beal may have a hard time putting up 30.0 points a night, he should remain one of the league’s most dangerous offensive weapons and his elite ability to play off the ball should fit nicely next to Westbrook.
Despite swirling trade rumors surrounding James Harden over the last month, he still remains one of the best players on the planet. It’s unlikely that John Wall‘s presence in Houston will supplant him from being a top-two fantasy option heading into the 2020-21 NBA season.
–Alex Burns (FantasyPros)
Westbrook’s arrival in Washington should give the All-Star guard a boost in fantasy value as he’ll no longer have to compete with James Harden for usage in the backcourt. He’ll pair up with Bradley Beal, who only sported such a massive usage rate in 2019-20 out of necessity. Westbrook’s usage was also enormous last season, and that’s likely to climb with the Wizards, who will once again be lacking for playmakers outside of its star guards. Beal’s fantasy value takes a hit with Westbrook in the fold, though it’s not a major one.
Meanwhile, Harden’s fantasy outlook is improved – or, as improved as it can get for a guy already slated to be a top-3 fantasy pick this season. Wall is more of an assist-first guy than Westbrook, and that should pay dividends for the Beard this season, as it’s unlikely Wall sees the same level of usage Westbrook did in his lone season with the Rockets. Houston’s surrounding cast, including the likes of Christian Wood and Eric Gordon, should benefit from Wall’s arrival in similar fashion.
–Zak Hanshew (FantasyPros)
Russell Westbrook wanted out of Houston and got his wish as he was dealt to the Wizards in a blockbuster deal in exchange for John Wall and 2023 protected first-round pick. Both teams have agreed to trade the two disgruntled point guards. Westbrook will play alongside star SG Bradley Beal in a secondary role and will once again stuff the stat sheet in Washington. The 32-year-old averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists in his one season in Houston. With the move to Washington, his draft stock shouldn’t change much, and he is expected to be selected within the top-25 overall in upcoming fantasy drafts.
As for Wall, he hasn’t played a game since December 2018 as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles. He will play a complementary role alongside star guard James Harden and newly acquired Christian Wood. The 30-year-old is expected to be all systems go for the start of the 2020-21 campaign. Wall is currently being drafted in the top-60 overall and with the move to Houston, his fantasy stock should remain relatively the same.
–Brad Camara (FantasyPros)
The Washington Wizards’ front office worked their magic and traded disgruntled point guard John Wall and a 2023 protected first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook. Below are some initial thoughts on how the blockbuster trade will impact their fantasy outlook for the upcoming 2020-2021 season.
Wall has not played a full season since 2016-2017, and he’s coming off a severe Achilles injury that forced him to miss 154 games over the past two seasons. I am leery on him returning to All-Star level form, but he lands in a good situation paired with James Harden, one of the best offensive scorers in the NBA. The Rockets replaced Mike D’Antoni with former Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Stephen Silas. In Dallas, Silas helped engineer a system that ranked number one in offensive efficiency last season. Houston also bolstered their frontcourt depth by acquiring Christian Wood and fellow Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins.
Both players should offer plenty of pick-and-roll opportunities for Wall to rack up assists while also giving him the latitude to attack the basket, exploit mismatches, and knockdown mid-range jumpers. It might take a few weeks to get back into true NBA game-shape, and he’ll likely collect some DNP-Rest designations along the way, but Wall’s fantasy value remains intact with Houston. It’s Harden’s team, and Wall’s pass-first mentality will complement Harden’s production as a top-3 player this season. Wall can exceed 17 PPG with seven assists in his first season with the Rockets but temper expectations of him being an elite fantasy point guard.
Westbrook spent one season in Houston and averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.0 assists while shooting a career-best 47.2% from the field across 57 games. However, once the 2020 Playoffs came around, it was clear he was not a long-term fit alongside James Harden. He now finds himself with a rebuilding Wizards franchise led by two-time All-Star and perennial All-NBA snub, Bradley Beal. The Wizards are going in a new direction after drafting Deni Avdija ninth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft and re-signing Davis Bertans. Still, I view this as an opportunity for Westbrook and his fantasy value to thrive. Surprisingly, the Wizards ranked eighth last season in 3PT percentage (36.8), equipping him with a group of young shooters capable of stretching the floor. He’ll also have the support of Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, who coached Westbrook for eight seasons in Oklahoma City.
With only Bradley Beal to compete with for shots, I expect Westbrook to continue his ball-dominant ways, hoisting up ill-advised shots and padding his stats every chance he gets. Beal will likely relinquish some of his point guard duties to Westbrook but, they can co-exist and still produce second-round value for fantasy managers this season. Yes, Westbrook’s days of getting nightly triple-doubles are likely behind him. Basketball pundits will write him off, and he’ll be the next player on the “washed” list. But, if there is one player I’m betting on playing with a chip on his shoulder and proving doubters wrong, it’s Westbrook. Fantasy managers should have no qualms taking him in the early to mid-second-round this year.
–Dan Titus (FantasyPros)
John Wall joins James Harden and the up-tempo Rockets in what should be one of the most electric backcourts in the NBA. Wall has a 42.4% career assist rate and should have no problem feeding back-to-back scoring champ Harden. Newly acquired big men Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins, Wall’s former college teammate, should also benefit from Wall’s penchant to dish the rock. He can facilitate them in the paint and won’t steal rebounds at the rate that Westbrook did.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Bradley Beal is likely to take a slight hit when it comes to his fantasy production. Beal and Westbrook tied for the fifth-highest usage rate in the NBA last season at 34.4%, but with Westbrook taking over as the primary ball-handler, Beal’s is likely to drop. Both should still be considered top-tier fantasy options, but Beal’s ceiling has certainly been lowered with Westbrook’s arrival.
–Aaron Larson (FantasyPros)
After just one season in Houston, Westbrook is reunited with former head coach Scott Brooks from their days in Oklahoma City. He goes from playing alongside the leading scorer in the league in James Harden, to playing alongside the second-leading scorer in Bradley Beal. Westbrook thrives with the ball in his hands, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t run the similarly fast-paced offense in Washington. Westbrook should still be considered a top-25 fantasy asset this season.
John Wall is a bit of an unknown, as he hasn’t played in almost two years due to multiple injuries. But he’s more of a true point guard than Westbrook, which could ultimately make him a better fit alongside the best scorer in the NBA in Harden. Wall might not play every game as he works his way back into basketball shape, but Houston’s uptempo style of play should be perfect for his skill set. The change of scenery should be seen as a positive for Wall’s fantasy outlook in 2020-21.
Harden’s points per game dipped a bit in 2019-20 while playing alongside Westbrook (down 1.8 points per game from 2018-19). Two seasons ago, Harden averaged a career-high 36.1 points per game with assist-maven Chris Paul as his point guard. Because Wall’s style of play more closely resembles a pass-first CP3 than it does a shoot-first Westbrook, we could see Harden get back to scoring 36+ points per game this season. This trade is absolutely a positive development for Harden’s outlook this season, as long as he remains a Houston Rocket.
While Westbrook, Wall, and Harden all stand to benefit in some capacity from the trade, Beal’s fantasy value could be on the decline. Without Wall for a full season in 2019-20, Beal became the second-leading scorer in the NBA with an extremely high usage rate. With Westbrook in town, expect that usage rate to take a hit. It’s unlikely Beal sniffs 30 points per game playing alongside Westbrook, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t still produce 25-5-5 with solid shooting percentages from the guard position. At just 27 years old, Beal still has plenty of room to blossom into a true superstar in the league, but those who hoped for a top-15 finish from the 9th-year man this season may have to wait a little while longer.
–Adam Koffler (FantasyPros)