Magical Johnson has tipped the Washington Wizards to become a force in the Eastern Conference after Wednesday’s blockbuster trade saw him acquire Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets in exchange for John Wall and a lottery-protected first-round pick in NBA Draft 2023.
Washington’s first-round selection involved in the trade is lottery-protected for Washington in 2023. If the ESPN did not announce this, the selection would be protected in 2024 under the top 12, the following year under the top 10 and 2026 under the top 8.
If there is no selection in the first round by then, there will be a selection in the second round in both the 2026 NBA Draft and the 2027 NBA Draft.
The Wizards last made it to the playoffs in 2018, losing to the Toronto Raptors in six games in the first round. The Achilles and knee injuries that have been on the Wall since December 26, 2018, have played a major role in the frustration of Washington’s post-season quests over the past two years.
However, Magic believes they are ready to “terrorize” the East after pairing Westbrook, a nine-time all-star, with Bradley Beal.
“Now everyone must watch out for the Wizards! They traded with Russell Westbrook today,” the five-time NBA champion tweeted on Wednesday night. “Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal will terrorize the East and make the Wizards a playoff team,” the five-time NBA champion tweeted on Wednesday night.
Now everyone must watch out for the Wizards! They traded with Russell Westbrook today. A @russwest44/@RealDealBeal23 will terrorize the East and make the Wizards a playoff team.
– Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) December 3, 2020
The deal ends Westbrook’s spell in Houston after just one season in which he scored 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists in 35.9 minutes, knocking a career best of 47.2 percent out of the field.
The fourth overall selection of the 2008 NBA Draft arrived in Texas in the summer of 2019 as part of a blockbuster deal that led Chris Paul to Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets’ hopes that the pairing of Westbrook with James Harden would lead to an NBA title were never fulfilled, as Houston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in the Western Conference semi-finals in September.
Last month, Westbrook told the Rockets that he wanted to be traded because he wanted to reclaim the role of “floor general” that he held during his 11 seasons with Thunder.
Houston made the commitment and sent Westbrook and the $133 million he had left for the next three seasons to Washington in exchange for Walls’ similarly incriminating contract – the five-time All-Star owes him $132 million for the next three seasons.
Whether Westbrook, the 2017 MVP, will be allowed to dominate the ball more than he did in Houston remains to be seen. Beal may be more willing to put the ball in the hands of another player than Harden, but that doesn’t mean he will allow Westbrook to take complete control of the game.
Last season, Beal averaged more field goals per 100 possessions than Harden – 13.5 to 12.5 – and fewer assists per 36 minutes – 6.1 to 7.4.
Apart from Beal, Westbrook will be surrounded by a young side team in Washington.
The Wizards recently signed an $80 million five-year contract with Davis Bertans after the Latvian established himself as one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA. He scored 42.4 percent from long range, while averaging 15.4 points, 4.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game.
Washington also hopes that Deni Avdija, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Jerome Robinson and Moe Wagner can develop into solid players.
Westbrook will also be reunited with Scott Brooks, who coached him in his first seven seasons in Oklahoma and made the playoffs for five consecutive years between 2010 and 2014.
These playoff runs included a trip to the 2012 NBA finals, when the Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in six games, and participation in the 2011 Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks and 2014 against the San Antonio Spurs – Oklahoma lost 4-1 to the Mavericks and against the Spurs in six games.