The Los Angeles Lakers might have to embrace a less-than-ideal scenario to improve their roster this offseason. During an interview on the CLNS’ Celtics Beat podcast, The Athletic’s David Aldridge mentioned Kemba Walker as a potential trade target for the Lakers.
“I don’t think it will be hard trading Kemba Walker,” Aldridge explained. “For some of the reasons you mentioned, first of all, Kemba Walker is a helluva player, when he’s healthy, he’s a helluva player. He’s a guy that will take and make big shots in the fourth quarter. He is a guy, as you guys know, that was an excellent defensive player at his position this year. So, I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Point guard is everything in the NBA, now. You got to have one. You have to have an elite one to have any chance. Is he elite? Probably not, but he’s right below elite. Like, he’s a really good point guard.
“If you told me the Lakers are trying to get him, I’d go, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’ You know what I mean? That makes sense. The problem is, I don’t think the Celtics want Dennis Schroder back, but you have to figure out how to make that deal, right? I won’t be surprised if he’s moved this summer at all, because, to your point, I don’t think this has worked out the way he thought it was going to work out in Boston for him.”
Statistically, Walker is putting up solid numbers but his two seasons with the Celtics have been overshadowed by a chronic knee injury. Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and four rebounds this season. The bigger numbers are 43 appearances in the 2020-21 season and 56 starts in 2019-20. Both seasons were heavily impacted by Walker’s knee injury.
Walker’s $36 Million Salary Makes a Deal with the Lakers Improbable
While the guard might represent a buy-low opportunity for the Lakers, Walker’s $36 million salary makes a deal with Los Angeles unlikely. Walker still has two years remaining on his four-year, $140.79 million contract which combined with his injury history means the Celtics might need to give up a draft pick in a potential trade as a way to get rid of his deal.
The challenge for the Lakers is the team could have as many as 10 free agents this offseason, meaning L.A. general manager Rob Pelinka would have a problem finding matching salaries to make a deal work within the salary cap. As Aldridge referenced, the only realistic scenario is Dennis Schroder deciding he wants to join the Celtics in free agency, and the two teams are able to work out a sign-and-trade involving the point guard. The chances of there being mutual interest between the Celtics and Schroder appear to be remote.
There Are Conflicting Reports on Walker’s Future with the Celtics
During his final interview of the season, Pelinka emphasized his desire to keep the Lakers “core” group together. The question is who is part of that core outside of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, especially after a disappointing first-round playoff exit. Some of the top Lakers free agents include Schroder, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso and Andre Drummond.
Walker would give the Lakers a third star to share some of the burden with James and Davis, but his knee along with the price tag would likely be too risky for the team to pull off a blockbuster deal. Bleacher Report’s Farbod Esnaashari reported there is a rift between the Celtics and Walker over trade rumors.
“A source close to Walker said he was hurt by Boston’s efforts to trade him, which created a rift in the Walker-Ainge relationship,” Esnaashari detailed. “Walker has a great relationship with his teammates and looked forward to being a veteran mentor to Tatum and Brown, but the same can’t be said about Walker and the front office. He no longer feels wanted.”
WCVB’s Chris Gasper disputed this report emphasizing that the Celtics are committed to keeping Walker. For fans holding out hope that the Lakers could swing for the fences by targeting Walker, there could be some appeal to L.A. landing draft capital in exchange for taking on his contract. The Athletic’s Jared Weiss reported Walker has a “negative trade value” which means the Celtics might have to include draft picks in any deal involving the guard.
“Multiple front-office sources across the NBA told The Athletic this week they still view Walker as having negative trade value should the team decide to go that route this offseason,” Weiss explained. “That likely means a trade would cost the Celtics extra picks or assets to offload, even if Walker is universally admired for his relentlessly positive attitude and hard work through injury.”