Last Word On Basketball

Grading the Kemba Walker Trade

SHANGHAI, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 03: Kemba Walker of USA reacts during the 1st round Group E match between USA and Turkey of 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Oriental Sports Center on September 3, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

The NBA has had quite an eventful week. Coaches are being fired, players are unhappy, and now players are being traded. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, a Kemba Walker trade has been completed to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kemba joined the Celtics after an all-star season with the Charlotte Hornets. He nearly walked for nothing after the Hornets lowballed him on his next contract. The Hornets salvaged the situation by putting a sign-and-trade together that netted them Terry Rozier. Walker was immediately labeled a Kyrie replacement and was set for success in Boston.

Kemba spent the next two years battling injuries and underperforming in the playoffs. Walker lost nearly all of his value and was essentially salary dumped to the Thunder.

Grading Kemba Walker to Oklahoma City

Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens took little time to make his first move. Kemba Walker simply didn’t fit well as another isolation player next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He tried to act more as a distributor, but could never reach the heights he did in Charlotte, making the Kemba Walker trade and experience a net negative for Boston.

Boston had to attach the 16th pick in this year’s draft to get rid of him. Handing over a near lottery pick and an all-star one year removed for an old Al Horford and Moses Brown isn’t a great look for Brad Stevens. This is especially true considering he was coaching Walker in the playoffs a little over a month ago. It’s possible that Brad Stevens’ experience coaching this team is affecting his valuation of the value of his roster.

On the bright side, Moses Brown and Al Horford are both good pickups. The Celtics are short on big men, and Moses Brown had shown serious flashes of greatness with the Thunder. He posted 21 points and 23 rebounds and the second-fastest Thunder double-double ever in a loss to Boston earlier this year; likely placing a good impression on Stevens. Al Horford’s value will come from his former experience with the Celtics and as a mentor to Brown and Robert Williams. Regardless, the loss of value on Kemba Walker, which can be partially attributed to Danny Ainge, makes this trade a tough pill to swallow for the Celtics.

 Boston Celtics: C+

Oklahoma City Thunder

Sam Presti has somehow netted another draft pick. To this point, Presti has parlayed the Russell Westbrook and Paul George team into 18 first-round picks and 18 second-round picks in the next 7 years, with 3 of those first-rounders in this year’s draft.

The Thunder shut down Al Horford for the second half of the season, while Moses Brown became the starter. Horford clearly had little value to the Thunder outside of the locker room, and though Brown has potential, the Thunder have the picks to make up the difference.

Presti bringing Walker into the fold brings memories of the Chris Paul acquisition. Walker will have the opportunity to get back to the playstyle that made him so great in Charlotte and get to guide Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the process. It’s possible that Walker’s value rises again, allowing the Thunder are able to flip him for more; an established play in the Presti playbook.

This move plays exactly to the Thunder’s strengths: they can build through the draft, and play competitive games that will keep the young players engaged, with potential for even more based on Walker’s play.

Oklahoma City Thunder: B+

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