Per a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics have agreed to trade Kemba Walker, the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and a 2025 second round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second round pick:
The Celtics are trading Kemba Walker, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2021 draft and a 2025 second-round draft pick to Oklahoma City for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 18, 2021
In his first move as President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics, Brad Stevens came out swinging.
It’s been expected that Boston would look to move on from Kemba Walker, after former President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge shopped him previously. There was recent reporting that Walker was no longer happy in Boston and wanted to play elsewhere.
From the Celtics side of things, Walker was owed in excess of $73.6 million through the 2022-23 season, assuming Walker picked up his player option for that year. That salary for a now oft-injured guard wasn’t palatable for Boston.
In his two years in Boston, Walker played in 99 games and averaged 19.9 points per game. His production slipped a bit in his second season after a knee injury suffered in early-2020 caused him to miss the first part of 2020-21. Walker was unable to play in back-to-back games throughout the season.
With a hefty contract and questions about Walker’s ability to stay on the floor moving forward, it was a relative no-brainer for the Celtics to move on.
This trade frees up about $9.4 million under the luxury tax for the Celtics for the 2021-22 season. Prior to the trade, Boston was essentially right at the tax line. This should free up the additional flexibility for the Celtics to re-sign free agent wing Evan Fournier, who was acquired at the 2021 trade deadline.
As for the players, cue Skylar Grey’s “Coming Home” up for Al Horford.
Horford is owed $27 million for 2021-22. He’s got a somewhat complex final year during 2022-23. Horford is guaranteed $14.5 million for that season. That will jump to $19.5 million if the team he’s on (presumably Boston) makes the 2022 NBA Finals. If Horford’s team wins the championship, that final season becomes fully guaranteed at $26.5 million.
During his previous run with the Celtics, Horford averaged 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.2 blocks per game over three seasons. He left during the 2019 offseason for a four-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. After just one season of disastrous fit with the Sixers, Horford was salary dumped to the Thunder, along with a future first-round pick.
Boston is also acquiring young big man Moses Brown in this trade. Celtics fans will remember Brown from his 21-point, 23-rebound game against Boston in late-March. In his first season with significant minutes, Brown averaged 8.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Brown has the added benefit of being under a team friendly contract through the 2023-24 season. Each season from 2021-22 through 2023-24 is non-guaranteed at the minimum for Brown. If he continues to show promise, even as a backup center, that’s a steal for the Celtics.
In the trade, Stevens gave up the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. That’s the price Boston had to pay for the difference in guaranteed salary between Walker and Horford and Brown. Given that the Celtics already have five players still on their first-round Rookie Scale contracts, adding another young player was always in question. In effect, Stevens is swapping #16 for the upside of Brown, while creating a ton of financial flexibility for Boston this offseason and moving forward.
What this means for the rest of the Celtics roster is uncertain. Boston now has five players under contract for 2021-22 whose best position is center. Horford and Brown join holdovers Tristan Thompson, Grant Williams and Robert Williams as big men for the Celtics.
It’s been fairly clear that Brad Stevens views a team as best-constructed with only one true big on the floor at a time. Given Grant Williams versatility, he probably comes out of the mix here. That leaves Horford, Brown, Thompson and Robert Williams. It’s likely something has to give there, as four bigs is too many for a team that ideally will play only two per game.
Much more to come here on CelticsBlog as we break down all the offseason transactions in what’s already been a very eventful Boston Celtics offseason!