After the Dallas Mavericks were eliminated in an entertaining seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers, many are suggesting the idea of a Kemba Walker–Kristaps Porzingis trade for the Boston Celtics. Porzingis was the brunt of much criticism in the 2021 playoffs, only averaging 13.1 points on 29.6% shooting from three.
Both Walker and Porzingis were viewed as individual players who underperformed in this shortened season, not living up to their potential showcased over the majority of their careers. A part of this is their ability to stay healthy, with both of them only playing 43 of the 72 games on the season. This reared its head again for the Celtics, as Kemba reinjured his knee in the playoffs, unable to play in games four and five.
With the Dallas Mavericks looking to build around Luka Doncic–already one of the best young players at age 2– look for them to make a move this offseason. With Porzingis already voicing his unhappiness with his situation, it’s quite possible to see him wearing another jersey come next year.
A Kemba Walker/Kristaps Porzingis swap is on the table for the Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have shown interest in Porzingis before, looking to trade for him while he was still on the Knicks. It’s likely the asking price was too high at the time, as Kristaps was viewed as a much more coveted asset than he is now.
For the season, Porzingis averaged 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds on 37.6% shooting from distance and 47.6% from the field. What looks like a solid offensive season on paper, can be critiqued when looking at advanced statistics. The 7’3″ unicorn who has had a block rate above 3% every year of his career, saw it fall to 2.2% this campaign. He holds a 20.7% defensive rebound rate to put him in the 71st percentile of bigs, which sounds decent, but is poor considering his height.
On the court, opposing teams have forced Porzingis onto the perimeter a lot more, making him use his feet in open space. This has led to a massive decline in defensive value, as while he was once known as a great rim protector and switching defender for his size, he has now become a liability.
On the season, the Mavericks allowed 5.2 more points per 100 possessions while Kristaps was on the court, a factor that certainly hurt the team. This is supported by the fact that opposing teams both had an effective field goal percentage of 3.3% higher and turned the ball over 3.1% fewer times while Porzingis was on the court, landing Porzingis’ defensive in the 6th and 2nd percentiles, respectively. In other words, his defense has gone from really good, to really bad.
Mark Cuban realizes that Luka Doncic needs a real second star to pair with the MVP candidate. Luka alone can compete in any playoff series, but to become a true championship contender, the Mavs need to add another piece.
On the other hand, the Boston Celtics have had troubles with Kemba Walker ever since the all-star break of his initial season in green. Although his statistics were not as bad as some may expect, he failed to show up in important games, including the ones in the playoffs where he was cleared to play.
He averaged 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on 42% shooting from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Those numbers are a viable third option on a championship contender – something he was behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown – but his inconsistencies proved costly when he had to take a bigger role in the offense.
After the injury to Brown in the playoffs, he was not up to the task, averaging 12.7 points on 31.7% shooting. Albeit an extremely small sample size, Walker will need to be better if the Celtics want to do damage in the playoffs once again.
Another route that new GM Brad Stevens can go is to trade the aging Walker, who turned 31 last month. His max contract lasts for two more years, with the second being a player option of $37.6 million. The Boston Celtics will need to cut money soon, as Jayson Tatum’s max contract is kicking in next year, along with the looming extension of Evan Fournier. Boston will spend the money, but not if they’re a first-round exit every year.
On the other side, the Mavericks will try to take advantage of their smaller payroll, as Luka Doncic is still on his rookie contract. Porzingis’s deal lasts for three more years, with the last being a player option of $36 million. By moving on from the big man, they could put a creating star next to Doncic, helping handle the offensive load in a playoff series. Along with this, the Mavs are set to have cap space both this offseason and next, set to make a splash to boost their team to another level.
The Boston Celtics would be fascinating after a Porzingis deal, as they would then have an overflowing amount of big men. This would likely mean that Tristan Thompson is gone, and Kristaps and Robert Williams would share the bulk of the center minutes, with both of them being on the court at the same time in some situations. Adding a shooting big man to the core of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is extremely beneficial, providing them with more space on the floor.
However, it would be interesting to see if the Celtics can use Porzingis’ height to his advantage, incorporating some type of post moves or inside presence to his arsenal. He has the potential to become a much more dominant player but settles for standing behind the arc far too often.
It’s possible that neither side would benefit from this trade, but considering the salaries and disappointing performances match far too well, it’s something to think about.
Both teams are looking to make a move – don’t be surprised if this is the one.