Celtics Trade Kemba Walker To Thunder For Al Horford
After last night’s exciting Game 6 between the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, one could assume the NBA fandom would get a break this morning before two more massive games this evening. One would be wrong!
The first move in the Brad Stevens era was made this morning, as the Boston Celtics traded Kemba Walker, their 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-rounder. Why the trade, and why now? It comes after a bad season for the star Celtics guard, who averaged 19.3 points per game, to go along with 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds. While his regular season wasn’t that far off from his performance in the 2019 season, in which he was an All-Star, Walker truly struggled in the postseason.
The Celtics are trading Kemba Walker, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 draft and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2021
In the Celtics’ first-round matchup against the Nets, Walker averaged 12.7 points per game on 31% from the field. With teammate Jaylen Brown out for the playoffs, Walker was expected to pick up some of the slack, and instead, played very poorly. He had two years and north of 70 million remaining on his contract, so Oklahoma City will certainly try to rehab his game and image around the league, in a similar fashion to what they accomplished with Chris Paul.
Walker entered this season with a knee injury that seemed to linger the entire year. The offseason from the bubble playoffs was already short, so the star guard had to miss the first 29 games of the year to rehab and then was thrust into the middle of a heated playoff race. One must wonder if health problems contributed to the decline of his play, as so many All-Stars and All-NBA caliber players dealt with issues this year.
Slotting next to Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Lu Dort, and whomever the Thunder select with their three first-round picks in this year’s draft, plus a full offseason and lowered expectations will undoubtedly help Walker get his groove back.
From the Celtics’ perspective, this was all about clearing cap space. Horford also has two years left on his contract, but only 53.5 million total. The second year of his contract is only partially guaranteed as well, coming in at 14.5 million. Adding Horford to the trade is a smart play for the Celtics. He’s familiar with their system and had arguably the best years of his career there. He had excellent chemistry with stars Jayson Tatum and Brown, who are even better now than they were during Horford’s first stint as a Celtic. Horford can fill the backup center role or start for Robert Williams, depending on matchups. Brown, also acquired in the deal, can be the third center on this roster or spend some developmental time in the G League. He seems to have some potential, as he nearly averaged a double-double this year, with 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Although some trades seem incredibly lopsided at the time, this is a trade that feels balanced for each squad.