Kemba Walker Trade: Grading Celtics-Thunder Transaction As Boston Deals Guard

Both teams made out rather well


Jun 18, 2021

The Boston Celtics announced a trade that sent Kemba Walker and a 2021 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a return including veteran Al Horford and Moses Brown.

There’s actually a lot to like for both sides.

Let’s hand out some grades for the two-team deal:

Boston’s decision to trade the multi-time All-Star came down to the finances. And with sending the 31-year-old to Oklahoma City, the Celtics got rid of his albatross contract — he has $73 million left — and played the long game. Walker, of note, had a $37.6 million player option for 2022-23 season after already being held out of back-to-backs what would be two years prior. Horford certainly is overpaid himself, however, the 35-year-old is owed far less money over the next two seasons with $27 million guaranteed in 2021-22 and just $14.5 million guaranteed in 2022-23.

Boston took a step back in the short term by trading Walker, as he still was a player who could score 30-plus on any given (healthy) night. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of those healthy nights, and it’s fair to point to knee injuries as the biggest factor why Walker’s disappointing Boston tenure didn’t play out differently.

Now, though, the C’s gain much-needed financial flexibility which should help them add more to a team already headlined with budding superstars in Jayson Tatum — who’s max contract extension begins next season — and Jaylen Brown.

Because of Walker’s contract being quite literally one of the worst in the league, the price of doing business was No. 16 in the draft. However, the Celtics essentially drafted Moses Brown, a 21-year-old center who’s played just two NBA seasons, with that pick and, again, get out from under a franchise-altering contract. (Here’s all you need to know about Moses Brown.)

Celtics grade: B

Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti got yet another draft asset for taking on a bad contract. The Thunder now have 36 picks — 18 first-rounders (!!) and 18 second-rounders — (!!) in the next seven drafts. Oklahoma City, an organization which has to build through the draft given the fact superstar players probably aren’t going to have the region No. 1 on their free-agency wish list, know the Thunder are years away and benefitted from another team’s misfortunes.

Walker very well could be traded before ever playing a game for OKC. However, both Walker and the Thunder could try and put together a rebound season in which the point guard bounces back. If Walker returns and looks closer to All-Star form, the Thunder could benefit yet again. OKC then could trade Walker to a title contender while receiving more draft capital in the process.

If not, the Thunder have built a roster of extremely cheap contracts and have the financial flexibility to pay for Walker.

Thunder grade: B+

Thumbnail photo via Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports Images
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