The Kemba Walker era in Boston will officially begin later this month, a period of time full of promise and potential for both Walker as well as the Celtics.
He has a four-year deal worth more than $140 million and has won over his teammates and coaching staff alike. And he’s a hell of a player who is coming off a season in which he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
When it became clear that Kyrie Irving’s days in Boston were numbered, there was not a clear path anyone could find at that moment that could have made fans actually feel better about the team’s prospects going forward. But with the play of Boston’s young core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continuing to show growth as well as the newcomers through the draft and free agency, the Celtics have a roster built to contend with some of the better teams in the East.
But their success ultimately comes back to how good Walker is, both in terms of his play as well as his leadership.
It's a successful season for Walker if ...
Boston finishes among the top two or three teams in the Eastern Conference. To do so would mean Walker played at a level comparable or better to what he has done in past years. It would also bode well for the Celtics’ future with Walker at the helm. He signed a four-year, $140.8 million deal with Boston this summer. Delivering a top-3 finish and putting up numbers comparable or better than what he normally does, is an absolute win-win for both Walker and the Celtics.
It's a disappointing season for Walker if ...
The Celtics season resembles past seasons for Walker while playing in Charlotte. In eight seasons, the Walker-led Hornets made the playoffs twice and failed to get out of the first round in both instances, which isn’t all that shocking considering they were the lower seed. Boston should finish with home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs this year. And remember, he’s joining a Celtics team that has gotten out of the first round each of the last three seasons, something only Golden State and Houston can also lay claim to among NBA teams. Joining a team with that kind of pedigree, one in which most of the principal pieces to that period of success are still around, should make the path towards continuing that round of postseason success more likely than not to continue. But if the Celtics fail to get out of the first round and the usual finger-pointing begins when a team fails to live up to the expectations of many, chances are high that Walker will get a good portion of the blame pie.
Walker will be named to the NBA’s Eastern Conference All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year, playing a pivotal role in the Celtics remaining firmly in the hunt for the best record in the Eastern Conference up until the latter portion of the season. Boston’s success in recent years has been fueled in large part by the team’s point guards having career-like seasons, whether it was scoring (Isaiah Thomas) or shooting efficiency (Kyrie Irving). But what will really stand out about Walker will be his assist numbers, which should reach career-high proportions. He has never averaged more than 6.1 assists per game. But with more scoring talent around him and an increased desire to get his teammates involved, better assist numbers will be part of the “new” Kemba Walker.
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