The inevitable Kemba Walker trade came much sooner than expected as Boston Celtics fans woke up to bombshell news Friday morning as the organization agreed to swap the former UConn Huskie, along with the 16th pick in the draft and a 2025 second-round pick, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a 2023 second-round pick.
New Celitcs President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens is off to a hot start in his new role, but this team is not done with its retool this offseason. What else does Stevens have up his sleeve after the Kemba Walker trade?
What Is Brad Stevens’ Next Move After The Kemba Walker Trade?
Moving On From Walker
Kemba Walker’s two seasons in Boston were filled with ups and downs. For someone who missed just six games in the prior four seasons before signing with Boston in 2019, he simply could not stay healthy for long stretches of time in green. His nagging knee troubles were apparent prior to the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, and it became his downfall ever since.
His explosiveness was deteriorating, he was losing his quickness, and his offense flat out disappeared over long stretches. If this Celtics core the last couple of seasons was able to have prime Charlotte Kemba during this current run, there is no telling what their ceiling would have been.
It seemed as though Kemba’s future in Boston was coming to a close when he was ruled out for Games Four and Five in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets, both of which saw the Celtics lose and the latter being bounced from the yearly festivities.
What made this so frustrating was the fact that Kemba had been sitting out of the second night of back-to-backs all season, with a handful of load management nights in between, in order to preserve him for the postseason. However, Walker never got fully healthy, and while some of that is not on him, the move to sit out while other stars around the league are also playing injured is puzzling.
Reports emerged that the Celtics had been trying to pull off a Kemba Walker trade during the 2020 season, but were unable to pull the trigger and talks fizzled out. This put a damper on the relationship between the former Husky and the organization, which may have contributed to Walker sitting out in the postseason. Both sides knew a split was coming, and perhaps Boston wanted to preserve his health as best they could to not risk lowering his trade value, regardless of where it was already at.
Al Horford Is Back In Boston
It seems all is forgiven in Boston for Al Horford leaving in 2019 for the division rival Philadelphia 76ers. After signing that massive contract, Horford failed to live up to expectations in Philly and was dealt to OKC the following offseason. Horford, 35, was on a much different timeline than the rebuilding Thunder team, and thus the organization decided to sit him out for much of his tenure with the team.
To Horford’s credit, in just 28 games, he was enjoying a strong bounce-back season than he had in Philly or his last season in Boston, averaging over 14 points, nearly seven rebounds, and over three assists on 45/37/82 splits.
Horford’s second tenure in Boston may look a bit different. Not quite the player he used to be, he will still provide a noticeable presence that has not existed in the Celtics locker room since he initially left. His leadership and accountability allow for more unification in the locker room, as he has helped propel a young team to deep postseason runs in the past, and there’s reason to believe he cannot do it again. Whether it is being a mentor to young bigs Robert Williams III and the newly acquired Moses Brown, or if he is here to regain that level of prestige around the league in green, Horford may be of more impact than the eye reads.
Moses Brown’s Upside
Celtics fans may remember Moses Brown, 7’2”, from an earlier contest against the Thunder this season where he dominated the glass against Boston, putting up 17 points and 19 rebounds in just the first half, finishing with 21 points and 23 rebounds. No player has had those counting numbers in a first half since Shaquille O’Neal, so take that for what it is worth.
Brown, 21, put up very steady numbers for OKC that should translate smoothly to Boston. The former UCLA big man averaged 8.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per 21 minutes a night. He started 32 of his 43 games he played in 2021. These numbers have the potential to grow in a larger role in a bigger market in Boston. His production level versus his extremely low salary makes him an absolute steal of a piece in this blockbuster Kemba Walker trade for the Celtics.
Brown is under contract through 2024, which he is non-guaranteed $1.7 million for this season, $1.8 million next season, and $2 million with a team option in 2023-24. Having a young big with high upside like Brown on lock for the foreseeable future will only pay dividends for this team.
Is This The Start Of “Trader Brad” This Offseason
If the Kemba Walker trade this early into the Celtics offseason is any indication, then fans are due for some fireworks this summer. It is highly likely that Stevens is not done making phone calls with other teams. With Walker gone, the team needs to explore options to fill the void at point guard. Whether it is someone on the roster currently, or if he can pull a few extra strings to bring in a talented new face.
For a franchise that has sat on its hands for long enough and chickened out on making high-risk moves, it is refreshing to see someone like Stevens take the helm and show that he is willing to make some of the tough decisions that perhaps Danny Ainge was not willing to. Moving on from Kemba Walker was high on Celtics fans’ wish lists this summer, and Brad Stevens clearly knew that. Now, it is time to fine-tune around the margins. Keep your eyes peeled for Stevens and the Celtics this summer, as the team continues their head coaching search in addition to flipping this roster to get back to title contention in 2021-22.
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