The newest Celtics offseason rumor that came out yesterday connected the team to Hornets PG Kemba Walker.
Walker, 29, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the Celtics are said to be a “stealth suitor” for his services.
Well, with the cat out of the bag, you can cross out “stealth.”
Walker had a career year in 2018-2019, averaging 25.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 5.9 APG while shooting .434 from the field and .356 from three. Walker made his first career All-NBA Team, and was an All-Star for the third time in his career.
Which brings us to this: if Kyrie Irving is leaving, why shouldn’t the Celtics want him as a short-term solution?
Well, it makes sense.
Signing Walker would be a better move than bringing in D’Angelo Russell in my opinion. They had similar numbers in some categories, but Walker is the more established and consistent player at this point in his career. He would bring more of a guarantee that the Celtics remain a viable team that could make some noise in a possibly wide open Eastern Conference next season.
However, I have some concerns.
The team would certainly be in better shape with Walker on the team next season, but doesn’t signing him risk continuing to not pick a path? This is something the Celtics have dealt with for years, as they seem to be building towards contention and winning in the present while trying to build for the future at the same time.
Bringing in Kemba Walker would mean giving him the keys to the offense, which means another year where Jayson Tatum isn’t given that responsibility.
We can talk about potential with guys like Tatum and Jaylen Brown all we want – and I believe they have it – but if you never give them the chance to be the unquestioned leaders of the team, how are we supposed to see that potential come to fruition.
We saw glimpses of it during the postseason in 2018, but the return of Kyrie Irving (and to a lesser extent, Gordon Hayward) changed the calculus last season. The team had to adjust, and ultimately it did not seem to work. With Kyrie Irving and Al Horford seemingly out the door, Boston has a chance to reset and build a team that can be led by Tatum and Brown, as well as Marcus Smart.
This might mean a step back compared to the aspirations the team had a year ago, but if the team thinks Tatum can be a superstar, and Brown can be a good player in this league, now is as good of a time as ever to give them a chance. Putting this off any longer would begin to accept that you do not view these players as being able to improve and lead the team. Not to say they cannot become better, but it would be a slight in my eyes.
Then you can begin to ask questions like: why didn’t you trade Jaylen Brown for Kawhi Leonard if you just view Jaylen as a complementary piece to a team?
Now the team could sign Kemba to a short term contract, and maybe try to take a swing at a league that could be for the taking next season. If it doesn’t work out, all sides move on, and then you give the keys to Tatum and Brown like you would this offseason.
However, Jaylen Brown will be a restricted free agent next summer. Very soon, the Celtics are going to have to figure out how – and more importantly, if – they view him as being part of their future plans. There could be a disagreement over his value if Jaylen believes he is a certain type of player based on potential, but never got the chance to prove it, and that could lead to him leaving the team if Boston does not want to pay him his worth. Maybe the team does not see Brown as a building block like Jayson Tatum, and not giving him the chance to take on a larger role next season could be a signal in that direction.
I think Boston is at a point where they ought to finally pick a path that makes sense, and the one that makes the most sense at this time to me is going after players like Malcolm Brogdon, Kevon Looney, Dewayne Dedmon, and Steven Adams, and allowing them to compliment the likes of Tatum, Brown, and Smart.
The best path to championship contention next season went out the door when Anthony Davis was traded to Los Angeles, which also signaled a likely departure from Kyrie Irving. Once talks with Al Horford broke down for good, it became more apparent that path will not exist next season.
Bringing in Kemba Walker would be fun, and I would not be disappointed, but it would be a short term fix, and would further raise questions for a team trying to find the best way possible to winning a championship.
Sorry Kemba, but I think I would prefer to learn more about the cards I have with this team than push that day back further into the future.
Credit for above photo goes to Chuck Burton of AP