The former All-Star point guard told Shams Charania, The Athletic that he wants to play for the Houston Rockets. Before the 2021-22 season started, he and the Rockets agreed to keep him on the bench until the team could find a new home for him.
Since then, there hasn’t been any trade noise from Houston or another team, likely due to the huge injury risk associated with Wall and the $44.3 million he’s owed this season with a $47.4 million player option for next season.
It’s hard to find a trade partner for maximum contracts on a good day, let alone trying to find a deal for a player who hasn’t proven he’s healthy or in game shape.
This recent report that John Wall is hoping to return to the court is a sign that he wants to prove he can still help a contending team.
In the article, Charania mentions that a sticking point between the two parties is the role Wall would play upon return. While John says he wants a starting spot and the ability to compete for the number one option, the Rockets want to keep giving their young talent developmental minutes.
The only issue with handing the reigns over to young players like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. is that the team has struggled to put together an efficient offense.
Last week, Jake Fischer, Bleacher Report suggested that head coach Stephen Silas’ job might be in jeopardy as the front office isn’t happy with how the team is progressing.
Houston currently leads the league in turnovers per game and Fischer added that the rest of the NBA is criticizing Silas’ approach:
"“Rival coaches characterize the Rockets offense as disorganized and undisciplined, with chronic turnover issues and poor shot selection. They boast the league’s worst offensive efficiency and assist-to-turnover ratio.”"
While some of the blame could go on the coach, there has to be some accountability from the front office that constructed the roster. With John Wall sitting, there is no elite point guard on the roster to get everyone in order.
If Wall does return to play and elevate the struggling Houston offense, it’d look great on his resume. If so, he might garner some attention from competing teams including the Denver Nuggets.
How could a healthy John Wall end up on the Denver Nuggets?
If the above scenario does play out and Wall proves he still has what it takes to run an offense in this league, teams will start to look at how they could acquire him.
The major issue is that good teams already have solid point guard play and playmaking – it’s part of the reason why they’re good. Nobody is trading away $43 million worth in assets to get Wall so it’d have to be after a buyout of sorts.
Charania reports that thus far, there have been no buyout conversations but the Rockets could “waive him and set an offset clause in his contract to recoup any money he makes over the next two years, but that means significant dead money”.
If the Rockets want to treat him as a sunk cost and get him off the roster, they could go with this route. It would mean they’d have to eliminate all free agency aspirations and forgo most of their cap space for the next two seasons, so there’s already some questions marks heading in.
Moving on from the Houston side for the meantime, the Denver Nuggets would be able to sign John Wall to a minimum contract mid-season and bring him in. It would be a great proving ground for the guard to show that he still has what it takes to play for a playoff team and might even net him a bigger deal the following offseason.
How would John Wall fit on the court with the Denver Nuggets?
When John Wall has been at his best, he has been the go-to ball handler for his teams. The Denver Nuggets are best when Nikola Jokic has the ball and the offense is running around him.
Yes, Monte Morris and Jamal Murray both get chances to handle the ball, finding openings in the defense off of Jokic’s attention, but it’s mostly with the ball in Nikola’s hands.
Wall would be asked to take a secondary role behind Jokic, handling the ball in most screening actions but asked to spot up and cut around the Big Honey.
A potential John Wall addition would also move Monte Morris back to the bench unit, adding some consistent playmaking back to a bench that has been starving for some this season. The Nuggets are currently 25th in the league in bench scoring.
Would that actually work? Well, Wall hasn’t had a season with a sub-26 percent usage rate since becoming an All-Star and in his 40 games with the Rockets, he had the highest figure of his career.
When Wall was at his best, he was the offensive hub for Washington, operating in the pick-and-roll and off dribble-hand-offs to find shooters open in the corners or finishing at the rim. Would he be able to adapt his game enough to work in Denver’s system?
The answer to that question also asks whether the risks associated with Wall are better than a free agent point guard right now.
Is a potential John Wall move worth it for the Denver Nuggets?
This is a solid question. The Denver Nuggets definitely need help now that MPJ joins Murray on the sideline but there are much lower risks out there compared to Wall.
Instead of hoping Wall takes a serious discount off his contract to get out of Houston, there won’t be a way he finds himself in Colorado. If Tim Connelly wants to add another ball-handling guard, he can look around at free agents out there right now, maybe even some that are better off at shooting on the catch.
Wall’s route back to playing is promising for his future in this league but with two years remaining on his contract, it’s extremely unlikely he finds his way out of Houston this season. Keep an eye on him for halfway through the 2022-23 season when he won’t have to leave as much money on the table.