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What should Tommy Sheppard do with John Wall?

It’s time to move on from Wall

John Wall Resigns with the Washington Wizards Press Conference Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

As reported by the Athletic John Wall wants out of D.C.

The real question is, where can he possibly go?

We’ll get to that, but let’s backtrack for a moment and understand what’s happening.

These are uncharted waters. We’ve all seen players demanding trades in the past, but I cannot remember a player with so little trade value making this kind of demand with so little leverage. But hey, Rich Paul’s clients do not always play by the usual rules.

This puts Tommy Sheppard on the spot. I think this is Sheppard’s first real test and he could come out of this strengthened if he shows resolve. I’ve argued in my discussion piece with Kevin Broom that a real culture change in DC involves addressing Wall’s behavior on and off the court, both by his coaches and the front office. How Sheppard deals with Wall can set a new precedent and point the organization in a new direction.

Although this may be a bit far-fetched, this is somewhat reminiscent of the end of the Gilbert Arenas era. The money involved is on a bigger scale. Wall is still owed $130 million for the next three years which is about $100 million more than what Arenas was owed at the tail end of his contract back in late 2009. Wall didn’t bring firearms into the locker-room but instead was involved in an unfortunate online video post:

When the Houston Rockets unraveled and it became clear Russell Westbrook needs a new home, the media analyzed possible trade destinations. The magic number for his salary is $131 million for three years. Sounds awfully similar to Wall’s salary, right?

So, naturally, Sheppard was asked about this possibility. Many times in the past he has reiterated that Wall is central to the future of the franchise and flatly denied any trade scenario. This time he did the former but did not quite do the latter.

Someone not familiar with the years of coddling Wall has received in D.C. who reads the interview may not notice anything inflammatory. Sheppard compliments both Westbrook and Wall and specifically says he is happy with Wall and Beal staying in D.C. But for Wall (and Rich Paul, his agent) this probably represents a deviation from the party line that Wall is the franchise player. A flat denial is what they grew accustomed to.

And then came another statement from Sheppard. When Sheppard went on to say

“When I say we’re building around [Beal], John’s been away for two years, it’d be unfair to say, ‘Hey this is John’s team.’ Bradley’s put in the work, he’s been available, John didn’t ask to be injured but the NBA marches on.”

Wall and his agent asked out of D.C.

Is this reversible?

Possibly, if Sheppard caves in and issues some sort of apology. But why should he? The things he said fall into the category of Captain Obvious. He’s a GM, and his job is to do what’s best for the team.

Anyway, I’ll leave for you to discuss this in the comments.

Where can Wall be traded?

The only trade for Wall I can see happening with little to no additional assets involved would be Wall for Westrbook. Let me explain why such a trade would make theoretical sense from the pure money/asset point of view (without saying anything about the basketball fit).

There could be all sorts of reasons why Wall wasn’t swapped for Westrbook already, including Westbrook not wanting to play in DC. We don’t know. However, if Westbrook is willing to play in DC I think the Wizards can (try to at least) demand a straight up trade.

Indeed, Westbrook has barely any market right now. True, Westbrook is the better player at the moment with Wall coming off an injury but Wall’s performance level is a wildcard. If reports and the viral videos are accurate, he may return at a high level, and he’ll surely be motivated to be at his best.

If Wall is playing at his old All-Star level, he’ll have increased trade value at the deadline or next offseason.

Are there other possibilities for trade destinations/scenarios? Let us know in the comments.