Kemba Walker’s stint with the Boston Celtics lasted just two seasons, yet his time within the Atlantic Division lives on.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday morning that the four-time All-Star point guard has agreed to a contract buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Per Wojnarowski, once Walker clears waivers, the 31-year-old plans to return to his roots, as the Bronx native is expected to sign with the New York Knicks.
“OKC’s [general manager] Sam Presti and Walker’s agents at Excel Sports, Jeff Schwartz and Javon Phillips, worked through buyout on the two years, $74M left on Walker’s contract in recent days,” the NBA insider tweeted. “Walker gets a dream homecoming to Madison Square Garden to further solidify New York’s backcourt.”
In return, Walker will be reuniting with former Celtics teammate Evan Fournier, who recently signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Knicks on the opening night of free agency.
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The Trade That Continues to Give
The Thunder originally acquired Walker from the Celtics in a June trade headlined by Al Horford’s return to Beantown. Here’s how the entirety of the deal broke down:
Oklahoma City Thunder receive:
- PG, Kemba Walker.
- 2021 1st-round pick (No. 16 overall).
Boston Celtics receive:
- F/C Al Horford.
- C Moses Brown.
- 2023 second-round pick.
Since then, there’s been an immense amount of movement from both parties and numerous pieces involved in the package. Walker becomes the second player in the deal to already switch teams before ever suiting up for their respective franchise. Tantalizing big man Moses Brown was traded from Boston to the Dallas Mavericks prior to the opening of free agency to yield the services of wing Josh Richardson in return.
As for Oklahoma City, they managed to trade the 16th pick in July’s NBA draft to the Houston Rockets, receiving two future first-rounders in return. Houston selected Turkish big Alperen Sengun, while the Thunder netted a 2022 first-rounder (via Detroit Pistons) and a 2023 first-rounder (via Washington Wizards).
Boston Was Right to Act When They Did
From the moment the Celtics pulled the trigger on the Walker trade, president Brad Stevens and company were met with pushback claiming that they may have acted too quickly. Naysayers claim that if the team held out a bit longer they could have found a better haul. This is actually quite ironic considering that for months on end we were spoonfed the belief that trading Walker for anything more than a salary dump would prove nearly impossible — however, we digress.
Rumored interest from both Los Angeles teams helped feed that narrative once the New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield reported that Walker being traded from the Thunder was “imminent.” Ultimately, Oklahoma City clearly struggled to find a buyer for an aging, undersized point guard with knee issues and a monstrous $74 million remaining on his two-year deal.
By pulling the trigger when they did, the Celtics were able to save $9 million while also landing a proven commodity in Horford, and in a roundabout way, Richardson, who will likely replace Fournier in their lineup next season.
Boston will still need to make up for the loss of Walker’s production, who managed to average nearly 20.0 points and 5.0 assists per game even during a hobbled 2020-21 campaign. However, with Walker evidently not in the organization’s long-term plans, acting swiftly proved a wise move for the Celtics.