This is something i did not want. Kemba Walker is due for a major bounce back season coming off a campaign plagued with anomalies that’ll be impossible to duplicate. Even in his hobbled state he averaged only one less point per game than he did in his previous season.
What the Celtics did essentially was get themselves out of paying a large sum of money, risking a potential downgrade in on-court value, to raise their ceiling for improving the team in 2023. Outgoing walker being due $73 million over the next two seasons vs returning Celtic Al Horford being set to earn $53 million over the same course of time, add in flipping the sixteenth pick in the draft for entering his third year center Moses Brown, I’ve seen teams do worse in salary dumps.
Dumping Walker leaves behind a need to replace his point totals, and the likelihood of the “solutions” being in-house. Primarily Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard. What Smart will need to do is improve his finishing around the room and develop an inside game. He is the main initiator of the offense now and it is a must he does more than what he is usually asked for. Which is why I’m skeptical that he’ll succeed and always stood by keeping Walker.
Still, Smart is only 27 and his trajectory compared to Kyle Lowry at their respective seventh seasons are remarkably similar. Difference is with Lowry is his shooting percentages rose to All-Star levels in his age 27 season, which is what Smart will need to do now. No ifs, ans or buts.
Looking down on the depth chart the aforementioned Pritchard can fill the role Terry Rozier once did and that’s camping out in the corner and being the backup ball-handler. Pritchard is faster than Smart and if the latter had the formers speed I really think I’d be more comfortable with our guard situation.
Receiving old friend Alfred after two years journeying the pitiful situations of Philly and Oklahoma kind of adds more depth. Prior to this we had five NBA players, not counting Tristan Thompson because he’s a center and we couldn’t get away with playing him next to Robert Williams. Today I am certain Rob will coexist with Horford. All this talk that he’s knees are gone are likely half correct. But it says something that the Thunder sent him home because he was helping them win games when the front office wanted to tank.
He still shoots a respectable percentage from the field, a crisp 36% from three-point and he can still get up for an alley-op on occasion. Horford is far from done and, if I am to be frank, is gonna age better than Walker… (Now watch Kemba put up 25 in OKC and make the All-Star team next season).
Our starting lineup as of today, (assuming Evan Fournier re-signs, which this trade makes easier to do) is Smart / Jaylen / Jayson / Rob / Horford; with Fournier and Pritchard. That’s seven NBA players ready to contribute at the drop of the hat. I am bullish on 2nd year Pritchard because I feel he is always good for one or two long range threes a night. But you need more than that to win. You need Pritchard to average more points and be able to command the offense. You also need one of Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith and Jabari Parker to become a contributor off the bench. If I had to make my bet, it be Jabari because of the painful irony he’ll be hitting free agency next year. A perfect double sword I am all too useful as a fan.
Bottom line: this trade makes sense. It hurts to see Kemba go as he did everything he could here to bring us a championship. But plans changed and getting off of his contract seemed like a must.