We’ve seen the report numerous times at this point, that multiple NBA front offices informed The Athletic that they view Kemba Walker as having “negative trade value” should the Celtics decide to shop him.
Still, Boston has to be able to get at least something in return for a quality starting point guard just one season removed from an All-Star berth… right? According to NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell, maybe not. A scenario that new president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens, is unlikely to be overly fond of.
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Could Celtics Move Kemba to Knicks in Salary Dump Move?
Hartwell floated the idea, placing the trade scenario atop his list of hypothetical trade scenarios involving the 31-year-old point guard. The move would serve as a massive salary dump for the cap-stricken Celtics. The main drawback? Boston would receive nothing in the deal — literally nothing. Take a look:
- Knicks receive:
- Kemba Walker, PG
- Celtics’ 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)
- Celtics’ 2025 first-round pick (top-5 protected)
- Celtics receive:
The NBC Sports columnist cited the aforementioned report pertaining to Walker’s non-existent trade value, claiming “That likely means a trade would cost the Celtics extra picks or assets to offload.”
He also added that while the proposal would unload a “ton of cap space” for the Cs, it’s fair to assume [Brad] Stevens could potentially “balk at getting nothing in return while parting with two first-round picks.” Hartwell also feels as though Stevens may not be alone in his resistance to the trade, adding “[Knicks coach] Tom Thibodeau also may balk at Walker’s limitations on defense.” Never truly known for his defensive prowess — even at his peak — Walker finished the 2020-21 season with a 0.086 defensive win share (ranked 113th in the NBA) and a defensive rating of 111.4 (ranked 339th).
Why the Knicks Could Make Sense for Kemba
This isn’t the first time the Knicks have been brought up in Kemba talks, and it surely won’t be the last. There are simply too many aligning factors. Most importantly, the Knicks have the cap space to stomach Walker’s contract, which is set to pay the four-time All-Star north of $36 million in 2021-22 and $37.6 million the following season (player option). Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt that Walker is New York through and through — something that Bostonians have become all too aware of over the past two seasons.
“The Knicks are well-equipped… as they can easily absorb Walker’s $36.6 million salary next season with nearly $60 million in cap space,” wrote Hartwell. “They’ll desperately need a point guard if Derrick Rose goes elsewhere in free agency, and Walker — a Bronx native who nearly signed with New York in 2019 and knows how to deliver at Madison Square Garden — makes plenty of sense there.”
From the Celtics’ point of view, pulling the trigger on such a move would undoubtedly be met with initial pushback, and rightfully so. For all the variables that are seemingly bogging his current trade value, Walker still remains a more than serviceable starting point guard and offensive threat in the league. With that said, getting out from under Walker’s contract could prove wise in the long run.