Philadelphia 76ers: A John Wall trade is a near impossibility

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday, September 14th, Shams Charania of The Athletic let it be known that John Wall and the Houston Rockets had “mutually agree(d) to work together on finding a new home for the five-time All-Star guard.”

Hmm… interesting.

On paper, I guess this makes some sense. With a young core of Jalen Green, Kevin Porter, Jae’Sean Tate, and Christian Wood in place, the Rockets surely want to turn their attention to the post-Daryl Morey/James Harden-era and away from older, over-the-hill veterans incompatible with the team’s timeline.

While having a five-time All-Star like Wall on the bench – and on the court – could be a valuable resource for an uber-young team looking to build for the future, as the former first overall pick has appeared in 650 games since entering the league in 2010, it’s understandable that both sides may want to avoid distractions as they eventually go their separate ways.

Would the Philadelphia 76ers have any interest in John Wall as a player? Most definitely, even coming off of a ruptured left Achilles tendon Wall still averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists in 32.2 minutes of action, but only as a buyout candidate. Trading for Wall is a completely different story, as his contract might just be the biggest albatross in the NBA.

A trade for John Wall is a non-starter for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Just for a second, let’s take a look at the Houston Rockets’ war chest and do an ultra unofficial “state of the franchise” evaluation.

As things presently stand, the Rockets own all but five of their future draft picks – with a 2022 second-round pick owed to Cleveland, a 2023 second-round pick owed to either Boston or Indiana, a 2024 first-round pick owed to OKC, a 2026 first-round pick owed to OKC, and a 2027 second-round pick owed to OKC/Utah – and have four future first-round picks, three future pick swaps, and a future second-round pick owed to them mostly from the Brooklyn Nets.

All in all, the Rockets are set up for a pretty darn exciting future, but what about their present? How does their current roster stack up with the rest of the NBA?

Not so well.

Again, the Rockets have four really nice young players, all of whom could remain under contract when the team is ready to contend a few years down the line, but of the team’s current roster, six of the team’s top 10 players are 28 or older and would likely be better served to continue their NBA careers elsewhere, on a more win-now squad.

In that regard, the Philadelphia 76ers actually serve as a pretty logical trade destination when it comes to the Rockets, as the team is firmly in win-now mode and their lead basketball executive has very hands-on experience with most of the team’s roster.

The only problem? The Sixers aren’t exactly a team ripe with contractual optionality when it comes to trades.

Sure, they have two big guns they can draw, trading either Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris and their $30-plus million cap hits, but outside of those two – and Joel Embiid, who is untouchable – the team has two mid-level contracts in Danny Green and Seth Curry and nine more contracts worth $5 million or less in AAV.

Would Daryl Morey love to reunite with Eric Gordon? Yes, I imagine he would, but with an $18.2 million cap hit for the 2021-22 NBA season, it would be a borderline impossible trade to pull off unless the team was willing to field a package featuring some combination of Green, Curry, Furkan Korkmaz, Georges Niang, and Jaden Springer.

Yeah… probably going to pass on that one.

So, if the Sixers can’t properly field an offer for Gordon, how on earth do folks expect the Sixers to somehow pull off a trade for John Wall? I mean, from a pro-Sixers perspective, such a trade would either be centered around Tobias Harris or involve Ben Simmons and a few of the Rockets’ young stars.

Mind you, would I do either deal? Probably not, but for the sake of argument, let’s go with it.

Trading Harris for Wall is pretty easy. Even though Wall is scheduled to make $8.3 million more than Harris in 2021-22, the deals are within 125 percent of each other and thus can be traded under the NBA’s rules. The only problem? Said deal doesn’t make the team better; it actually makes them worse. Harris is a better shooter than Wall, a better rebounder than Wall, and arguably better equipped to play off of Joel Embiid as a third star than the Washington Wizards’ former franchise player. Making a move exchanging Harris for Wall only really makes sense if Simmons has already been traded to another team for a forward – think Andrew Wiggins from the Golden State Warriors – as part of a package for Simmons, which sort of feels counterproductive, considering Simmons is unquestionably the better trade asset of the two.

And what about Simmons? Could the Sixers and Rockets come to an agreement centered around Wall and the “Fresh Prince?”

Yes, but also no.

Let’s assume the Sixers would want to get back Wall, Kevin Porter, Jae’Sean Tate, and a pair of future first-round picks in a trade for Ben Simmons. Would the Rockets agree to that deal? I don’t particularly know, but frankly, it doesn’t matter, because the deal is impossible. Considering the two teams couldn’t even swap Simmons for Wall one-for-one in a legal rule that falls within the NBA’s 125 percent rule, adding a player like Tate and/or Porter would require the Sixers to throw $4.4 million of additional contract dollars into the pot, which, again, is hard to do considering the team’s lack of $5 million-plus contracts.

Is a package of Wall, Porter, Tate, and picks worth either Simmons, Milton, Springer, and Isaiah Joe/Paul Reed or Simmons, Milton, and Furkan Korkmaz? No, I don’t think either side would agree to that deal if it was on the table because it just doesn’t help either team get where they want to be.

While it would be cool to see how Wall and Porter would play off of Embiid, as the duo are both talented drivers who can score the ball efficiently and run a pick-and-roll, I doubt the Sixers are willing to take on all of that money and forgo all of that homegrown talent for a return sans a star player in his prime. Similarly, while Simmons would unquestionably become the Rockets’ second-best prospect behind Jalen Green, having to say goodbye to a sizeable chunk of the team’s asset pool likely doesn’t bode well for their current timeline.

Plus, could you even imagine the optics of trading Simmons for Wall and picks largely procured from the James Harden trade when they could have had actual James Harden had they pushed all of the chips to the center of the table? That, my friends, would be thoroughly embarrassing.

Next. Happy 49th Birthday, Daryl Morey!. dark

No, the only real pathway to John Wall wearing a Philadelphia 76ers jersey anytime soon would likely involve an agreed-upon buyout between the two parties, which, according to Shams Charania, is currently off the table. If that commitment holds true, it’s best to leave this one behind instead of hoping for an impossible deal to get done… assuming you’re one of those rare combination Philadelphia 76ers John Wall fans.