Stein referred to the Celtics as ‘stealth suitors’ for the Hornets’ star man, which, of course, they are no longer, since Stein shared the news on Twitter with his 1.3 million followers.
Walker, who could receive a supermax from Charlotte, is 29 years old and will command a max contract in this summer’s free agency. Boston’s cap situation, as is noted by Stein, is fluid, but they are set to have a fair bit of room with Aaron Baynes traded to Phoenix and Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Kyrie Irving all set to depart.
The timeline of Walker with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown doesn’t really fit all that well. Signing Walker would presumably mean Terry Rozier – who is a restricted free agent – would leave this summer.
Walker is one of the top five point guards in the NBA, and he enjoyed a brilliant 2018/19 with the Hornets. With needs at guard and centre, though, the Celtics should probably be looking elsewhere in free agency.
The Celtics have plenty of areas to address in free agency with so many players departing. Here are three players they should consider ahead of Walker…
The Celtics have been linked with Vucevic a fair bit already this offseason. The big man enjoyed the best year of his career with the Orlando Magic last season, earning his first ever All-Star appearance.
Orlando face a dilemma about whether to keep the seven-footer, who struggled mightily against the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs. Vucevic’s peak years do not fit with the development of their young players, and he’ll likely command over £20 million a year this summer.
Vucevic is a less than stellar defender, which doesn’t exactly fit with Brad Stevens’ roster. Then again, if Boston wanted defence from their centre spot, they could’ve kept Baynes.
A decent three-point shooter and solid passer, Vucevic could fit nicely into the Celtics’ offence without taking too much of the ball away from Tatum. With Boston still having Marcus Smart and potentially Rozier in the backcourt, spending big on a frontcourt star makes more sense than handing a max to Walker.
A similar signing to Vucevic, Cousins is a higher-upside, greater-risk option. He showed flashes of his best offensively after returning from his Achilles injury, but health issues flared up again as a quadriceps problem ruled him out for the majority of the playoffs.
Cousins – like Vucevic – is an offence first centre. He’s a better passer than the Orlando man, and a more rounded force offensively, but at the other end of the floor he’s a liability. Toronto took advantage of Cousins in the NBA Finals in the same way they did with Vucevic in the first round.
The argument for signing Cousins is it would probably leave spare money under the cap for Boston to pick up fellow veterans. He should – considering his injury history – be relatively cheap.
Fitting Cousins into an offence with Tatum and an improving Brown could be a lot of fun.
Coming off a great year on the overachieving Los Angeles Clippers, Patrick Beverley is considered an ideal role player for plenty of the contending teams.
While his salary could well end up in the teens, Beverley is going to be markedly cheaper than Walker, hopefully giving Danny Ainge manoeuvrability to pick up a solid centre.
Beverley isn’t an orchestrator offensively, which obviously is an issue for Boston in the absence of Irving. He could work well if Gordon Hayward can get back to somewhere near his best, though.
The Celtics already have two elite defenders in their backcourt in Brown and Smart. Pair either of them with Beverley, and they would arguably have the best defensive backcourt in the league (Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday may have something to say about that).