NBA Free Agency still does not officially get under way until 6 PM tonight, but the rumors and commitments have been running rampant for the past couple of days. Kyrie, Kemba, Jimmy, and Kawhi, among others, have been at the center of the NBA world as everyone is anxiously awaiting to see where these superstars end up for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
All of these rumors are subject to the player signing on the dotted line, and we all know "commitments" mean essentially nothing (Looking at you, Kyrie), but it appears as if Kemba Walker has all the intentions of signing with the Boston Celtics. The 9th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft has spent his entire career in Charlotte, but looks to be moving on to greener pastures. All signs point to Walker signing in Boston to the tune of a four-year, $141 million deal come July 6, when players can officially start signing with their respective teams.
Walker has been one of the better players in the NBA for these past couple of seasons, but had perhaps his best in his contract year. While playing in all 82 games, Walker averaged 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, while shooting 43.4% from the floor. Walker isn't a great shooter, but he can attack the basket, has a fantastic motor, and suits up for essentially every single game.
Looking at this move strictly from a basketball standpoint, there is not a significant drop-off between Kyrie Irving and the aforementioned Walker. They are different players and most certainly have different personalities, but the Celtics are replacing Irving with perhaps the next best thing on the free agent market.
Off the court is an entirely different issue. Irving is perhaps one of the worst teammates in the entire NBA, and I do not say that lightly. Irving had the unique ability to completely destroy a team that had arguably the brightest future in the entire NBA. I am not blaming Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, or any of the young guys. I am blaming Irving. Not only did he tear the team apart, but this was on the heels of Irving committing to sign with the Celtics at the end of this past season. All of these character issues for Kyrie could possible be negated if the Celtics were winning, but they drastically underperformed. To be perfectly honest, I have serious doubts if the Celtics would even entertain bringing Irving back if he suddenly had a change of heart.
Why do I talk about all of this? After all, this article is supposed to be about the newest prospective Celtic, Walker, not Irving. However, I only mention this because Walker is the complete opposite of Irving. All he wants to do is win. He is leaving Charlotte because he wants to go on a deep playoff run and win a championship. Walker is such a good character guy, he even entertained the idea of taking less money to stay in Charlotte if they were able to bring in another star. But Michael Jordan is, well, Michael Jordan.
At points in this past season, people entertained the idea that the Celtics had too much talent and not enough chemistry. I truly believe that bringing in Walker helps this immensely. Are they losing a bit of talent? Sure. Are they improving their locker room with a true leader that only wants to win? One that won't be making stupid movies and getting nose jobs during playoff runs? You bet.
Not only does this help the locker room issues that plagued the Celtics last season, but I think it also makes them a better team on the court, even if they are losing some talent. The Celtics have enough talent to win a NBA Championship. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, and a decent big man can win a NBA Championship. But they need to mesh on the court. Walker can be effective without the ball in his hands for 15-20 seconds per possession, unlike Kyrie. This will allow Tatum, Brown, and especially Hayward to be more effective.
Moving forward, I would love to see this team get a solid big man. The Celtics could and should get back to their roots of being a gritty team that the fans love. They got away from this last season and it was detrimental to not only the team, but the fan base.
What else does Ainge have up his sleeve?