The last two weeks were rough for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving's departure to Brooklyn became a near certainty and Al Horford's contract negotiations to return to Boston came to an abrupt end, resulting in Horford's expected exit to a team willing to offer him a four-year deal worth up to $112 million.
Now that the NBA Draft has concluded and the Celtics' front office got a chance to position themselves for free agency, they responded by seemingly locking up free agent point guard Kemba Walker. Early Thursday morning, Boston emerged as frontrunners to secure Walker on a four-year, $141 million contract after he hit a stalemate with the Hornets.
Signing Walker to the reported max-contract would take up almost all of the cap space freed up if they renounce their rights to Irving, Horford, Terry Rozier, Brad Wanamaker and Jonathan Gibson and officially complete the trade to send Aron Baynes to Phoneix. This would seemingly take them out of the running for any notable free agent on the market, including Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon.
A report earlier this week suggested that "chatter was building" around the Celtics' interest in making a sizeable offer sheet to Brogdon, who's a restricted free agent. If the offer sheet was large enough, it would force the Bucks to decide to match a bigger contract they expected or let him walk altogether. According to Zach Lowe, the Bucks "breathed a sigh of relief" when the Celtics became frontrunners for Walker (via Sagar Trika).
"I think Milwaukee has a number that's too high for them," Lowe said on JJ Redick's podcast. "They're sitting there getting scared about where that number's going to come from. And they breathed a sigh of relief today when Boston emerged as the frontrunners for Kemba Walker, which I think is real and not fake. I don't think that's Kemba Walker's agent trying to leverage Charlotte into a bigger offer."
Taking a productive player like Brogdon away from an East rival would have been a shrewd move from Danny Ainge, but securing a player like Walker should and seemingly is Boston's priority in free agency. Lowe also reaffirms the belief that Walker is Boston-bound, so Celtics fans should get ready for yet another All-Star level point guard playing on the parquet. Maybe this one will last more than two seasons.
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