Boston Celtics: OKC Thunder to be interested in Kemba Walker

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports /

With more reports coming out of an upcoming split between Kemba Walker and the Boston Celtics, suitors are being mentioned as possible destinations for the former All-Star point guard. Evan Massey is reporting that the Oklahoma City Thunder are a team to monitor in the offseason, as they have lots of flexibility and matching salary.

The Thunder have been a mainstay of the playoffs throughout their history but started a rebuild after the trades of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Chris Paul. That was showcased this year, finishing 14th in the Western Conference at 22-50. They currently have young stars to build around in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort, along with a remarkable 19 first-round draft picks in the next seven years.

They also have matching salary on the roster, with 35-year-old Al Horford riding the bench, hoping to compete on a more competitive team. At the end of March, Horford was permanently benched to help the team’s tank. Clearly, OKC has no intentions of winning anytime soon, hoping to build a dynasty around young talent.

A Kemba Walker/Al Horford swap makes some sense for the Boston Celtics

Kemba averaged 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists on 42% shooting from the field and 36% from downtown. Although a statistically decent year for his standards, he experienced slight declines in almost every category, with his durability remaining a large question mark. He was load-managed throughout the majority of the season, playing in 43 of the 72 games. Then, he injured his knee again in the playoffs, unable to start in the final two games of the series.

Horford had a productive season for himself after a disappointing stint in Philadelphia, averaging 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 45% shooting from the floor and 36.8% from behind the arc. These numbers saw a slight increase from previous years, likely due to his larger role in the dismal Thunder offense.

He also had one of the best defensive years of his career, with OKC’s defense allowing 6.7 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was on the court. He’s been a defense anchor throughout his tenure in the league, being able to switch onto the perimeter, hold his own in the post, and get his hands in passing lanes.

In his time in Boston, Big Al was beloved by both fans and coaches, playing a crucial role in the team’s deep playoff runs in both 2017 and 2018. He became an efficient shooter under coach Brad Stevens, spacing the floor for star players such as Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving. Additionally, his presence on a current Boston Celtics team would be welcomed, as the squad’s lackluster defense can be improved by the experienced big man.

Horford would have been welcomed back in Boston during his free agency, but he chose to take the ridiculous contract that Philadelphia offered him (can’t blame him), and underperformed under that deal. This has caused Al to get a negative reputation around the league, but he’s still a productive, playoff-proven player in the right circumstances – he had some of his greatest success in Celtic green.

For the actual deal, both Walker and Horford have two years remaining on their contracts, with the former making about $10 million more per year. Thunder GM Sam Presti seemingly needs a draft pick involved in every deal, especially one where he is taking back bad salary. However, in this instance, I would be surprised if it was anything more than a second-round pick, as both of these contracts are similar, with the extra salary per year not mattering to the rebuilding Thunder.

If OKC wants some type of first-round compensation, don’t be surprised if Stevens, in his new position of power, looks to another suitor for Kemba Walker.

The Boston Celtics would love to have Al Horford back in a swap for Kemba, as he’s proven himself in Boston before, but only for the right price.

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