Celtics

Exploring five hypothetical Kemba Walker trades for Celtics

Celtics

Brad Stevens has a lot on his plate right now.

Just days into his new role as Boston Celtics president of basketball operations, the former head coach is hard at work finding his replacement.

But Stevens also needs to figure out what to do with Kemba Walker, who reportedly has agreed to part ways with the team this offseason.

Trading Walker will be easier said than done. He missed 29 games this season dealing with a knee injury that doesn't appear to be getting much better. He turned 31 in May and is owed $73.6 million over the next two seasons after submitting his worst statistical season since 2014-15.

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Then again, the bar for Walker is high: He still averaged nearly 20 points and five assists per game last season and when healthy could be a starter or super-sub on a contender, which reportedly is the role he seeks.

Since Stevens is busy finding a head coach, we thought we'd do Brad's work for him and drum up five hypothetical offseason trades involving Walker. Each deal was deemed a "success" by TradeNBA.com's handy trade machine tool, which of course guarantees nothing but at least tells us the math works out.

Here are five teams that could orchestrate a Walker deal with Boston and what each trade could look like:

1. New York Knicks

Celtics receive: Nothing

 

Knicks receive: Kemba Walker, Celtics' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected); Celtics' 2025 first-round pick (top-5 protected)

Kemba Walker Knicks trade

Why it works: As The Athletic's Jared Weiss reported recently, Walker likely will have "negative trade value," meaning the C's will need to give up additional assets for a team to take on his contract.

The Knicks are well-equipped to do just that, as they can easily absorb Walker's $36.6 million salary next season with nearly $60 million in cap space. They'll desperately need a point guard if Derrick Rose goes elsewhere in free agency, and Walker -- a Bronx native who nearly signed with New York in 2019 and knows how to deliver at Madison Square Garden -- makes plenty of sense there.

Why it may not work: The Celtics would free up a ton of cap space, but Stevens may balk at getting nothing in return while parting with two first-round picks. Tom Thibodeau also may balk at Walker's limitations on defense.

2. Dallas Mavericks

Celtics receive: Kristaps Porzingis

Mavericks receive: Kemba Walker, Celtics' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)

Kemba Walker Mavs trade

Why it works: This is a nearly perfect fit from a contract perspective, with both players making north of $30 million next season. It's also a classic "change of scenery" trade.

Injuries continue to plague Porzingis, but the 7-foot-3 forward is still only 25 and certainly would fit the "shooting with size" mold that Boston sought at the NBA trade deadline. Porzingis gets another chance to realize his potential, while the Mavs get a legitimate backcourt scorer who can help ease Luka Doncic's massive workload.

Why it may not work: Porzingis hasn't played more than 66 games in a season since his rookie year. Do the Celtics really want to replace one player hampered by injury with another -- and continue paying him through 2023 (and 2024 if Porzingis exercises his player option)?

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

Celtics receive: Al Horford

Mavericks receive: Kemba Walker, Celtics' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)

Kemba Walker Thunder trade

Why it works: Stevens raved about Horford's versatility and basketball IQ as a coach, so it'd be fitting if his first move was to bring back the former Celtics big man. Horford has lost a couple steps since the 2018-19 season but would be a much better option than Grant Williams at the four and would be a nice veteran complement to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. His contract is only partially guaranteed in 2022-23, too, so the C's could have some flexibility there.

The Thunder are the go-to destination for NBA salary dumps, as Sam Presti adds to his war chest of draft picks by taking Walker on.

Why it may not work: Horford just turned 35 and is under contract until 2023, when he'll be nearly 38 by season's end. You could argue the Celtics can find better ways to spend their money.

 

4. Chicago Bulls

Celtics receive: Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, Tomas Satoransky

Bulls receive: Kemba Walker, Celtics' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected); Celtics' 2025 first-round pick (top-5 protected)

Kemba Walker Bulls trade

Why it works: Full disclosure: We stole this one from Twitter (with a slight modification). The Celtics flip Walker for three expiring contracts, giving them tons of cap flexibility after the 2021-22 season to pursue a third star alongside Tatum and Brown.

The Bulls get a legitimate starting point guard to pair with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic as they eye a playoff push next fall.

Why it may not work: Even two first-round picks might not be enough for the Bulls to part with three players on expiring deals. And if they believe strongly enough in Coby White after his strong sophomore campaign, they may not want to pay $36.1 million to a 32-year-old point guard.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

Celtics receive: Patrick Beverley, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann

Clippers receive: Kemba Walker, Celtics' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)

Kemba Walker Clippers trade

Why it works: The Celtics get two 40-plus-percent 3-point shooters in Kennard and Mann and pair Beverley with his fellow First-Team All-Instigator, Marcus Smart.

The Clippers lack a legitimate third option outside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and Walker had no issue deferring to two All-Stars in Boston. If he's healthy for the playoffs, he could be the piece that helps get Los Angeles over the playoff hump.

Why it may not work: Beverly and Smart are a bit redundant, and the Celtics would need more scoring punch in their backcourt after this trade. And as we've mentioned, the Clippers may not view Walker as their missing link after watching him struggle in the 2021 playoffs.