The Boston Celtics traded one bad contract for another Friday when they sent Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder with veteran Al Horford included in the return.
The two contracts, though both wildly overpaid, aren’t close to comparable.
The 31-year-old Walker has more than $70 million left over his next two years. Horford, 35, is owed $27 million guaranteed for the 2021-22 season, but that guarantee drops to $14.5 million in 2022-23, as noted by Yahoo! Sports’ Keith Smith. Horford gains added incentives if his team makes the 2022 NBA Finals and if his team wins the championship. If the Celtics do one or both of those things, they’ll gladly give Horford an extra $12 million while Wyc Grousbeck finally gets to hang Banner 18.
Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens seemed to offer his thoughts on the two contracts during Monday’s post-trade press conference. And while Stevens didn’t make these comments as a direct response to a specific question about it, it’s easy to read between the lines on where he stands.
“The opportunity to add Al, who makes significantly less money, but is a really good player that has corporate knowledge of this environment, that is really excited to be back in Boston and has a good feel for not only playing with our guys, but also has made them better,” Stevens said during a video conference.
Stevens went on to praise Horford for his off-court leadership and experience and on-court versatility.
“His impact on others and his ability to lift others is one of his great strengths,” Stevens said.
Stevens acknowledged how it was the financial flexibility Boston gained after getting Walker’s contract off the books which led to the trade happening. And Oklahoma City offered too good of a return to pass up with 21-year-old enter Moses Brown coming to Boston, as well.
Here are some more takeaways from Stevens’ press conference Monday:
— There were a few key themes from the press conference, but perhaps one of the biggest sticking points was Stevens recognizing how Boston would build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
It seems rather obvious, right? Yeah, build around your two best players. Well, that doesn’t make it any less important, and Stevens clearly is committed to adding pieces who complement Tatum and Brown.
“The ability to make our wings better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said.
He added: “… What we need to do is continue to see great growth out of those (younger) players and ultimately decide who makes our best players better.”
— Boston went from a team with little front court depth to team that now has three (or even four) capable centers. The Celtics, again, added 35-year-old center Al Horford and a 7-foot-2, 240-pound Moses Brown while already having Robert Williams and Tristan Thompson along with depth pieces like Grant Williams and Tacko Fall.
Stevens expressed how he feels about the depth at center while simultaneously thinking out loud about a few lineup possibilities.
“With regard to the bigs, that just becomes a longer discussion without getting into specifics of can guys play together? Can you do the double big thing with certain groups? Are there guys that pair better together?,” Stevens said.
They won’t keep all the bigs on the roster next season, so we’ll see how that plays out.
— Stevens explained why he didn’t wait to trade Walker until hiring a head coach. Essentially, it came down to the Thunder presenting an offer Boston couldn’t turn down, and didn’t want to go away.
“We talked about everything but there’s, obviously it was an early deal, but I felt like it was the right one. Again, not easy, but the right one,” Stevens said. “And we didn’t feel like waiting. Especially with, again, the ability to get a return player of Al’s caliber, experience and leadership ? (it didn’t) make sense to wait.”
— Stevens also noted how he doesn’t want former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to be a stranger. He hopes Ainge will be around the facility as much as he wants to be around.