The Boston Celtics have been quietly licking their wounds after a nightmare 2018/19 season. After an uncanny NBA Finals, Kevin Durant rupturing his Achilles and the Lakers trading their entire team for Anthony Davis, it finally seems certain that Kyrie Irving will leave the Boston Celtics this summer. So, where does this leave Boston?
With Kyrie leaving, Aron Baynes‘ contract traded to Phoenix and Al Horford moving on, the Celtics are suddenly in a position to make a statement in the free agent market in the form of Kemba Walker. Walker can take the option of earning an estimated $220 million super-max in Charlotte (should it be offered), however, there are strong rumours that Walker will decline the super-max in favour of playing for a contender.
Walker is a ball-dominant guard who excels at creating his own shot and shooting off the dribble. Kemba’s archetype is similar to that of Kyrie Irving, and that experiment ended miserably. However, Brad Stevens, similar to fellow Boston-based sports coach, Bill Belichick, runs a system in Boston and that system was most effective with Isaiah Thomas at point guard.
2016-17 Thomas holds a lot of similarities to Walker; both are small point guards with the ability to shoot, dribble and pass well. In Thomas’ best season with the Celtics, 2016-17, he averaged 28.9 points per game (ppg), compare that to Walker’s best and most recent season in which he averaged 25 ppg. Another stat line in which the two players are similar is assists. In 2016-17, Thomas averaged 5.9 assists per game (apg), in 2018-19, Walker also averaged 5.9 apg.
This is crucial as in Stevens’ system, every player must touch the ball at least once on offence, this forces every member of the opposition’s defence to remain switched on and play 5-on-5, instead of just standing around watching James Harden dribble the ball for 18 seconds.
In 2016/17, Thomas did not have the privilege of kicking the ball out to a Gordon Hayward or hitting a cutting Jaylen Brown for a dunk. Walker now will. On top of Kemba’s ideal fit for the Celtics on the court, off the court he is a quiet and reserved figure in the media. Quite the opposite to Kyrie ‘flat-earth’ Irving.
If Boston can acquire Walker it would bring the much needed stability the franchise and the fans are crying out for. To add to that, it would bring back the fun and ‘Spurs-like’ play the Celtics captured so well in 2016 and 2017 with Thomas and on top of that I believe that Walker is a better all around player than Thomas ever was, and hopefully if Walker declines the super-max and chooses to play for a contender we will see his true potential.
A line-up consisting of: Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and a vet’s minimum big man coached by Brad Stevens are sure to do well in the Eastern Conference.