A crazy week for the NBA has gotten even crazier following a blockbuster deal made between the Boston Celtics and OKC Thunder Friday morning.
First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics are shipping Kemba Walker and draft capital to the Thunder in exchange for a package centered around Al Horford. Both players are considered to have atrocious contracts, but Boston reunites with Horford while freeing up some future financial flexibility by moving Walker.
On the other hand, OKC general manager Sam Presti continues stockpiling draft picks for the future as he adds another first-rounder and a future second to his ever-growing pile of assets.
The biggest question left in the aftermath of the move is what will come of Walker and if he will ever suit up for the franchise. At 31-years-old, Walker does not exactly fit the timeline for this up-and-coming Thunder team, and opposing teams will certainly have a close eye on the situation.
Wojnarowski noted that OKC would work with Walker to determine what comes next as they have done with other aging stars in recent memory. Perhaps they could part ways at some point, but the financial specifics make things difficult. Set to make $36 million next season while holding a player option for $37.7 million the following year, the guard’s contract is not an ideal one.
The OKC Thunder could possibly hang onto Kemba Walker in a mentor role
Before all the talk of a trade or potential buyout floods NBA discourse, it remains feasible to believe that OKC could keep Walker in town.
It would not be the first time they kept an aging point guard on their roster after trading for him, similar to what they did with Chris Paul in 2019-20. Due to his sizeable contract, Paul was viewed as a negative asset when the Thunder brought him in. Still, the guard changed the narrative when he led the team to the postseason after being viewed as a surefire lottery team before the season.
To make things clear, Walker is not Chris Paul by any stretch of the imagination, but there are several parallels. Paul served in a leadership role to perfection, and perhaps Walker could do the same. Young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort gravitated to Paul when he was around. Bringing in another savvy veteran like Kemba could do them good once more as those two budding stars continue ascending.
Furthermore, Walker put up solid numbers with Boston this season by averaging 19.3 points on .420/.360/.899 shooting splits, 4.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He could be a productive piece on this team. The biggest question mark is Walker’s health as he battled through a knee injury all year. The status of that injury will be a sticking point in any potential trade discussions, in addition to the $73 million he is owed over the next two seasons.
Those factors make a trade seem unlikely at this point, but perhaps Walker could find himself on the open market at some point down the line as a free agent. Whatever the case might be, here are four teams besides OKC that should make a run at acquiring Kemba Walker if he is available.