Thunder GM explains how Kemba-Horford trade with C's materialized


It's exceptionally rare for a major NBA trade to go down before the postseason ends.

So, how were the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder able to strike a deal so quickly?

Thunder general manager Sam Presti recently shared some insight into the trade he completed with Boston just two weeks into Brad Stevens' tenure as Celtics president of basketball operations that sent Kemba Walker, the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and a 2025 second-round pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick.

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"The Celtics had some interest in Al. We’ve had a few different conversations," Presti said, via USA TODAY's Thunder Wire. “When Brad assumed the role of running the front office, it was kind of a natural conversation that came up."

As Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix pointed out recently, Presti and Stevens have a "great relationship" to the point where Presti apparently considered hiring Stevens as Thunder head coach in years past. Walker reportedly wanted out of Boston this offseason, so it's not surprising that one of Stevens' first tasks as GM was to call up Presti's Thunder, who had a familiar face in Horford on the roster in addition to a wealth of cap space and draft picks.


"It made a lot of sense for both teams," Presti said. "I think it’s a great trade for the Celtics, I think great for us. I think it’s a pretty simple deal, I don’t think it’s super complicated.

"Al has been awesome for us and I think he’s thrilled about being back in Boston, so I’m glad that it worked for everybody."

The Celtics saved nearly $10 million in cap space in 2021-22 by swapping Walker's contract for Horford's and also have greater financial flexibility going forward, as only half of Horford's 2022-23 salary is guaranteed.

Stevens explains why C's made trade with Thunder

Meanwhile, Presti and Oklahoma City could turn around and trade Walker to a contender in exchange for more future assets, while the No. 16 pick gives them three selections in this year's first round.

"The 16th pick in any draft is really, really hard to get a hold of," Presti added, "and getting a player like Walker ... shot creation is at a big premium … so it just makes sense for us."

Time will tell if the Celtics can maximize their extra savings, but for now, this seems like an evenly beneficial deal for both squads.