On Friday morning, news broke that former Celtic, Kemba Walker, will begin next season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, per Adrian Wojnarowski.
Along with Walker, OKC receives the 16th overall pick in the 2021 draft AND a 2025 second-rounder. Despite the great value OKC is receiving, the Celtics have just Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a 2023 second-round pick in return.
On paper without much thought, this sounds like an awful trade. But lets look into it a touch.
Reassurance for Boston’s Young Core
This move subliminally tells Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum that this is their team. Brown, who has greatly improved his ball-handling, and Tatum, who was an already profound facilitator, will have the ball in their hands more. It’s reassurance that these two young stars in the making are going to be supported by Boston management for the long hall and they’re believed in. Something like this seems minimal, but we’ll dive deeper into the logistical impact later.
The Soiled Kemba-Boston Relationship
On June 9th, it was reported that Walker and Celtics management simply didn’t see eye-to-eye anymore.
From a statistical standpoint, this mutual agreement makes sense. Walker averaged his fewest points per game, 19.9, in a season since 2015. Additionally, he recorded his worst overall plus-minus rating, 1.8, since 2014.
On the Celtics end, since Walker’s arrival in July of 2019, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have improved an incredible amount. Tatum is overperforming his career averages in all three major categories (points, rebounds, assists), as is Brown. While rebound and assist numbers are a gradual increase, points paint a different picture. Brown averaged 24.7 last season which heavily juxtaposes his career 15.1. For Tatum, 26.4 contrasting a career 19.4.
What’s this mean exactly though? The more points the merrier right? Walker averaged almost 20 to be fair.
What problem occurs when three guys go for 20+ a night is the ball dependence said “guys” have. If an aging Kemba Walker, 31, is out there taking shots and touches away from Tatum, 23, and Brown, 24, this would drastically impact their potential. Especially when the young guns are already averaging better numbers.
All of this goes without speaking of Walker’s injury issues. He didn’t touch the court until January due to his problematic left knee. Initially, Walker started rehabbing October of last year. A stem cell injection was supposed to rejuvenate Walker, but the injury remained prevalent. A team like Boston, with young stars previously mentioned, simply doesn’t need Walker. Especially given his assist numbers lack in comparison to prior seasons.
Then there is also now the $70+ million Boston is relieved of paying Walker. The Celtics are now totally free of the max contract they granted Walker in 2019. They’ll inherit Al Horford and Moses Brown’s contracts, but the amount in comparison of those two combined is so minimal it’s not worth even mentioning. Boston practically made a “trade-back” in a “no trade-backs” league.
The Vet and the Youth
It’s no question Boston loves Al Horford and Horford loves Boston. He played three seasons with the team from 2016-2019. The to-be 14-year veteran adds experience and leadership to the team. His recent time with the squad equates to chemistry with some players, and experience with some plays. Despite Horford being 35, he still averaged 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. Commendable stats for any big man.
Coming to Boston with Horford is Moses Brown. All that needs to be mentioned on Moses Brown is the fact that he’s 7’2”. Jokes aside, his size is profound. Additionally, he’s just 21 years old. Moses spent time in the G-League two seasons ago, but in his debut year with OKC, Moses went for 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds a night. The points are promising, and the rebounds are prolific.
Horford acts as a great mentor to Moses, alongside Boston’s other promising talents. Additionally, Moses serves as another coachable and ceilingless prospect in regards to his potential. After showing what the team’s developmental coaches can do with Jaylen Brown and Tatum, I’d bet on Moses Brown being a name we hear a lot about come four years from now.