John Wall has had a tumultuous NBA career. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Wall quickly became a key part of the Washington Wizards backcourt alongside Bradley Beal. Wall posted several strong seasons — winning All-Rookie First Team honors in 2011 and making the All-NBA Third Team in 2017 — and made five straight All-Star appearances from 2014 to 2018.
The Wizards thought they might have something special with their backcourt duo, and in July 2017, signed Wall to a four-year, $170 million contract extension. But shortly after that, an injury bug hit — and it hit hard.
Wall missed half of the 2017-18 season dealing with a knee injury, appearing in 41 regular-season games but managing to recover in time for the playoffs. That was five seasons ago; since then, Wall has not played more than 41 games in any given year.
During the 2018-19 season, he played 32 games before a heel injury prematurely ended his season. He had surgery on the heel, it got infected, and to make matters worse, Wall slipped in his home and ruptured his Achilles. He missed the entire 2019-20 season — which included a four-month delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic — as he recovered from both injuries.
Before the next season started, the Wizards traded Wall to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook, one of the few players with a contract as massive as the one Wall signed. Wall appeared in 40 games with the Rockets that year and showed flashes of his old self. However, he again missed time due to injury, in this case, a hamstring strain.
That brings us to this season. Wall was healthy enough to play…only the Rockets didn’t send him onto the court for even a single minute of action. Houston was among the worst teams in the league and wanted to see how their young core, led by Christian Wood, Kevin Porter, Jr., and Jalen Green, would gel together on the court. Adding Wall into the mix would only delay their team’s development.
Wall has earned about $123 million from this contract already. Now, he has a player option for $47.4 million that he’s planning to accept. Why wouldn’t he? There’s zero chance a team would offer him close to that amount in free agency based on his injury history, so he may as well lock it in.
The problem is that the Rockets likely won’t pay Wall $47.4 million to once again sit on the bench. So, we may see a buyout occur. The Rockets will pay Wall a portion of his contract and send him off into free agency. In return, he’ll offer to give back some of that $47.4 million so he can join another team, perhaps a contender that could use some quality minutes with their second unit. Wall showed glimpses of promise in the 2020-21 season, and he’s now had an entire offseason to rest and focus on his next move. He could be a key piece for another team that’s closer to a championship.
We’ll see what Wall ultimately ends up earning with his next deal. It probably won’t be $47.4 million. But the idea that it could happen for a guy who has played just 72 games over the past four seasons — including ZERO last year — is absolutely wild.