Celtics

A longtime NBA insider doesn’t think the Celtics will have a hard time trading Kemba Walker

Walker's recent injuries and his contract could make him tough to move.

Kemba Walker's recent injuries and his contract could make the Celtics want to trade him this offseason. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

The NBA offseason hasn’t started yet, but the trade rumors for the Celtics have already started. This time though, the rumors aren’t focused on who they will get. Rather, they’re focused on if they’ll trade point guard Kemba Walker.

The four-time All-Star has been the subject of trade speculation because of his contract (which has two years and $73.7 million left on it), his underwhelming play, and his recent injuries.

Walker missed 29 games this past regular season plus two playoff games mostly due to a knee injury he suffered in the 2019-20 season. He received stem cell injections in his left knee last October, but with Walker recently turning 31, it’s reasonable to be concerned about his long-term health.

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While Walker’s contract and health status aren’t great, longtime NBA insider David Aldridge, who covers the league for The Athletic, thinks the Celtics can still trade him.

“I don’t think it’ll be hard trading Kemba Walker,” Aldridge said on CLNS’s “Celtics Beat” podcast. “First of all, Kemba Walker’s a hell of a player – when he’s healthy, he’s a hell of a player. He’s a guy who will take and make big shots in the fourth quarter. He’s a guy who was an excellent defensive player at his position this year. So, I don’t think that will be a problem.

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“Point guard is everything in the NBA now. You’ve got to have one. You have to have an elite one to have any chance (at winning). Is he elite? Probably not. But he’s right below elite. He’s a really good point guard.”

After a struggling start to the season, Walker did bounce back later in the year and showed signs of playing like his All-Star self. In April and May, Walker averaged 21.3 points and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from 3-point range.

However, Walker’s scoring average (19.3 points per game) and field goal percentage (42 percent) were his lowest in six seasons. Even though those numbers are still relatively good compared to the rest of the league, Aldridge doesn’t see Walker fitting in with Boston anymore, citing the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as a key reason why.

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“I won’t be surprised if he’s moved this summer,” Aldridge said. “I don’t think this has worked out the way he thought it was going to work out in Boston for him. Part of that has to do with the injury, but part of that has to do with Jayson Tatum becoming so damn good. If you tell him who should get the ball at the end of the game, you’re picking Jayson Tatum most of the time. It’s really hard to get three really good players to share the ball. It just is.”

“It’s just really hard. It’s really hard to do,” Aldridge added. “It happens when the three guys decide to make it happen. It doesn’t happen when you just pick ‘I want this guy, I want this guy, and I want this guy. We’ll make it work.’ No! The three guys get together and say ‘We want to play with each other.’ And they make that happen. They didn’t do that in this case. This was not Kemba, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown saying ‘Let’s play together.'”

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Aldridge doesn’t know what the Celtics could get in return for Walker, but he speculated a pair of Eastern Conference teams who could be interested in trading for him.

“If you told me Toronto was trying to get Kemba Walker, I’d say ‘Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense for them,'” Aldridge said. “They still have a window. They still think they can contend. If you told me we could replace Kyle Lowry with a fixed-cost player in Kemba Walker? Yeah, that makes sense for me with the group they have.

“Miami, same thing, makes sense. [Goran] Dragic is on his way out. They’ll probably re-sign him for short money, but they need a point guard long-term, and Kemba’s pretty good. So, there’s suitors. There’s teams that make sense to go get Kemba Walker.”

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