When the Houston Rockets traded for John Wall last December, they intended to pair the All-Star point guard with James Harden to make one final push at an NBA title. The marriage barely lasted a month when Harden successfully forced his way to the Brooklyn Nets.
Before injuries became the primary reason the Rockets fell to the depths of the league, Wall created chemistry with Christian Wood, and the twosome once had Houston riding a six-game winning streak.
Nine months after Harden’s departure, Wall appears to be an outcast in Houston. With his birthday in early September, Wall will be one of three players on the roster over 30 when he turns 31-years-old — joining D.J. Augustin and Eric Gordon. And as a veteran player who will be entering his 12th season in the league, it does not take a rocket scientist to discover that Wall doesn’t want to waste a year of his career playing for a rebuilding team.
But with nearly $92.0 million left on his contract, Wall will likely be in Houston for the entire ‘22 campaign. After averaging 20.6 points and 7.0 assists, Wall proved that he still has some talent left in the tank. And on any given night, Wall can show flashes to how he became a five-time All-Star with the Washington Wizards.
It may not be the ideal situation for both parties, but keeping Wall could be beneficial to the Rockets — now and for the future. Here are two reason why keeping Wall around will be helpful for the Rockets.
Wall will not allow the Rockets to establish a losing culture
With the Rockets entering the early stages of a full rebuild, it will be easy for the organization to develop a losing culture. Having multiple losing seasons could result in drafting a pair of generational talents like the Philadelphia 76ers. Or it could riddle a near two-decade rebuild like the Sacramento Kings — who has not had a winning record since 2006.
And after finishing with the league’s worst record at 17-55, the Rockets cannot afford to endure another losing season.
Wall may not lead the Rockets to a playoff birth, although the play-in-tournament could be a possibility. But keeping Wall around would prevent Houston from creating a losing culture within the locker room. As he has stated before, Wall is a competitive guy whose main focus is to do everything possible to win.
This remark became apparent amid the Rockets’ infamous 20-game losing streak. Wall played on nights he was due for rest to manage his body following a two-year hiatus due to injuries, and averaged 24.0 points while shooting 40.6 percent from the field to help the Rockets end their dreadful streak.
With the Rockets projected to finish with the league’s worst record again by the general public, Houston will need Wall’s competitiveness to assist in laying a reconstructed winning culture in the locker room.
Leadership for Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green
When the 2021-22 campaign begins, the Rockets will have one of the most intriguing young teams in the league. Kevin Porter Jr. will be on the verge of a breakout season after averaging 16.0 points and 6.3 assists since arriving in Houston, while Jalen Green is a Rookie of the Year favorite as he notched 20.3 points on 50-50-90 shooting splits across three Summer League games.
Green and Porter have the potential to become the NBA’s next dynamic backcourt. But at 19 and 21 years old, Wall’s leadership could be propitious for the paring both on and off the court. With Wall, the young duo can learn how to pick up a team after a tough loss and keep a locker room together if personalities are unable to blend.
Nearly every NBA great has credited one veteran they gravitated to that helped them become the All-Star player they became, including John Wall, who learned from Gilbert Arenas.
Wall may not be in the Rockets’ long-term plans. And if a realistic trade partner comes along, perhaps the former No. 1 draft pick would see his exit out of Houston before the 2022 offseason. But the longer Wall stays in Houston, his presence will only help lay the base to a successful rebuild for the Rockets.