In the midst of playoff fever, Brad Stevens, the new team president of the Boston Celtics, has initiated his first trade. Kemba Walker is shipped to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Al Horford comes back to Boston. The trade is about much more than these two actors. What do the deals mean for the Celtics and the Thunder?
NBA: The Kemba trade from the Celtics perspective
Brad Stevens has been in office as the new President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics for just two weeks, and he is already responsible for the first trade hammer. The timing of the Kemba Walker trade came as a surprise, deals at such an early stage, even before the Draft Lottery and the Draft Combine, both of which will rise in the coming week, are unusual.
But instead of waiting for a draft and free agency, Stevens got the hang of one of the most pressing issues of the Celtics offseason as quickly as possible. It was no secret that Boston wanted to ship Kemba. Stevens’ predecessor Danny Ainge had similar plans in the past offseason. The point guard got wind of it, was allegedly angry and wanted to leave too.
The trade to Oklahoma City is now ending the 31-year-old’s Celtics career much earlier than originally planned. He only came to Boston in 2019 to lead the traditional franchise to a championship together with the young core around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. As is well known, nothing came of this, among other things because stubborn knee problems kept Walker out of the game.
After missing a total of 35 games in his first eight NBA years in Charlotte, there have been 45 in the past two seasons in Boston. Backs spared and finally missed the last two playoff games of the Celts in the first round against Brooklyn (1-4) due to the injured left knee. And in the games in which he played, he could no longer match the level of previous years.
Kemba Walker became too expensive for the Celtics
He no longer lived up to his lavish four-year contract signed in 2019. In the next two years, Walker can still rake in $ 73.7 million, and for the 2022/23 season he has a player option of $ 37.7 million. His contract, combined with the question marks about his health, made his trade value plummet.
This is particularly evident from the package that Boston had to put together to get rid of Kemba. Stevens added his own first round pick in 2021 (number 16) and a second round pick in 2025 to get Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second round pick from the Thunder (Boston also got a trade exception of 6.9 million dollars ).
For Horford it is a return to the old place of work. Stevens knows the Big Man from years together between 2016 and 2019, in the Celtics jersey he even made it to the All-Star once. But he is now 35 years old. After moving from Boston to Philadelphia, he had an unfortunate season with the Sixers and was shipped to OKC in 2020. There he showed solid performances in 28 games last season. Too solid for the Thunder, who shut him down in favor of tank mode and with the promise of finding a trade from mid-March.
Probably the backup role behind Robert Williams will come up to him, whom he can certainly help in his development with a few veteran tips. Even as a floor spacer, he can certainly contribute something to the game of the Celtics and give depth to the front court rotation, which was a problem recently. Brown also brings Upside to Center – loud Boston Globe however, he was primarily a trade filler to make salaries appropriate. But he should get his chance in Boston.
Boston Celtics: More Financial Flexibility
Ultimately, Boston could have given up its starting point guard and a first round pick for a backup center, but that’s only half the story. The most important thing about this deal is probably the financial aspect. By swapping Walker and Horford’s contracts with the Celtics, the franchise saves a ton of money.
The Big is still under contract for two years and $ 53.5 million, but only 14.5 million are guaranteed in his final year of contract. Instead of 73.7 million for Kemba, the Celts will probably spend only 41.5 million for Horford in the next two years (plus almost 2 million for Brown).
This means that Boston is slipping below the luxury tax limit for the time being, which gives the front office a little more flexibility for the summer. One goal of the Celtics is apparently a contract extension with unrestricted free agent Evan Fournier, which has become more likely with the trade. At the same time, Stevens has to look out for a new starting point guard, and further trades (for example Marcus Smart) do not seem to be ruled out. Whether the Kemba trade was worth it in the end will only be seen after the other deals by the Celts this summer.