Kemba Walker’s time in Boston seems to be coming to an end, as Bleacher Report’s Farbod Esnaashari reported that the Boston Celtics and Walker are “likely to move forward from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties.”
Walker, 31, has dealt with knee injuries the past two seasons and only appeared in 43 games during the 2020-21 season.
Boston has some serious rebuilding to do of its roster, as the Celtics only were able to get the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and were bounced in five games by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
WynnBET had the Celtics’ NBA Finals odds at +5000 late in the season, but Jaylen Brown’s injury and a lack of depth crushed the Celtics’ hopes of making it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Walker’s contract, which has two more years (the second being a player option) on it at $36 and $37.6 million, will be extremely hard to move.
The Athletic’s Jared Weiss explained what Walker’s value looks like heading into the offseason.
“Multiple front-office sources across the NBA told The Athletic this week they still view Walker as having negative trade value should the team decide to go that route this offseason,” Weiss wrote. “That likely means a trade would cost the Celtics extra picks or assets to offload, even if Walker is universally admired for his relentlessly positive attitude and hard work through injury.”
However, here are three teams that the Celtics could make a deal with and end Walker’s unceremonious run in Boston.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are rebuilding, but they have the cap space to take on a deal like Walker’s.
Oklahoma City traded for Al Horford last offseason in order to secure draft capital from the Philadelphia 76ers, and they may try and pry a young piece from Boston while taking on Walker.
Horford, the former Celtic, is set to make $27 million and $26.5 million over the next two seasons, although only $14.5 million of his deal in the last year is guaranteed.
Boston hasn’t found a big to replace Horford since he signed with Philly in free agency a few years ago, and the Celtics may be interested in bringing him back in a swap for Walker.
It wouldn’t help Boston as much financially, but it would still save the Celtics nearly $10 million while giving them a proven quantity at center along with Robert Williams.
Oklahoma City would likely want a protected pick or a young player in return, but that would be a small price to pay for a Celtics team that is planning on being a contender in the years to come.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Celtics as a potential Kristaps Porzingis destination, so it’s only right that they make this list as well.
Dallas could use another playmaker alongside Luka Doncic, and Porzingis’ contract certainly makes it tough for them to go out and sign anyone major in free agency.
Walker would be a savvy addition if he can stay healthy, although his defensive limitations aren’t great next to Doncic.
The deal I had come up with looks like this:
Celtics receive: Kristaps Porzingis
Mavericks receive: Kemba Walker, Aaron Nesmith, 2022 Second-Round Pick
The Mavs may want more, especially given Walker’s health, but the need for both teams (the Celtics desperately need a big man) and the contracts are there.
New York Knicks
As much as the Knicks fan in me doesn’t want them to trade for Walker, the Knicks do make some sense as a potential destination.
With Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton both set to become free agents, the Knicks don’t have many options at point guard this coming season. That means they’ll be in the market for one, and while Rose may return, Walker would also make some sense, as Esnaashari notes.
“The Knicks have roughly $60 million in cap space and could take on Walker's contract while making other free-agency moves,” he wrote. “The playoffs proved the Knicks need another scoring option besides Julius Randle; the team ranked last in postseason points per game, averaging only 97.0.”
Taking on Walker’s massive deal is less than ideal, but the Knicks have the space and may be able to acquire another asset in the process. If the team would rather pay Walker than Rose, (I don’t think that’s likely) then it is possible a trade could happen if Rose finds a home elsewhere.
The Celtics will have a hard time unloading Walker simply because of his deal, but there is a chance that they find the right fit to help them get back to being a contender in the East in the 2021-22 campaign.