Boston Celtics: What to make of Al Horford for Kemba Walker swap

Boston Celtics (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Just a few days ago, Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics came to the executive decision to send Kemba Walker, their 2021 first-round draft pick and a 2025 second-round pick for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a 2023 second-round pick. Rumors about this deal were swirling for weeks; the question was not if it would happen; instead, when would it happen. Now that it has happened, what does the deal mean for Boston moving forward?

First and foremost, the Celtics finally have a reliable stretch big on the roster after two years without one. One of Brad Steven’s biggest staples was the pick and pop, which he had been unable to deploy for the last two years with Theis, Kanter, Thompson, and Williams as his bigs. Horford shot 37% on 5.4 three-point attempts per game with OKC and shot 37% on 4.7 catch and shoot three-point attempts.

His shooting will provide some much-needed floor spacing for Tatum and Brown and give them more options in pick and roll. In addition, with Horford and Williams, the Celtics’ next coach will multiple options as to what play types he wants to deploy, unlike Stevens had to rely heavily on isolation plays and mismatch hunting.

Secondly, who the heck is Moses Brown, and what good is a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics? If you remember right, Moses Brown dropped a Shaq-like stat line against the Boston Celtics not too long ago but has since fallen off the map. He cooled off with OKC, turning more into a Drummond clone than a Capela clone like many hoped.

So it is unlikely Brown plays meaningful minutes with the Celtics, and even more unlikely Brown stays with the team all three years of his contract. But if he does, the C’s can try and develop him like they did Robert Williams, behind the scenes and in garbage time, with the hopes that one day he puts it all together.

It’s a low-risk-high reward move that does not limit Boston’s cap flexibility or roster flexibility. The 2023 second-round pick could be helpful if the Thunder are still tanking then. Ideally, it would land around 30-35, allowing the C’s to trade up into the first round. But those two assets were just filler; the big prize is Horford.

Thirdly, why did the Celtics attach a first-round pick to Kemba Walker to get a player who is arguably not better than him? I did not believe the Boston Celtics would have to connect a first to Walker, seeing as Horford is 35 making $27 million this season, but in hindsight, it makes sense. No one else would take on Kemba Walker’s contract and give Boston a contributor in return, which means Presti had all the leverage.

By taking on Walker’s contract with so many future All-Star point guards in this year’s draft, Presti needed a sweetener to take the risk of curving some of his player’s development by acquiring Kemba Walker. Hence, the need to include the 16th pick in the draft. It’s a tough loss, this is a stacked draft with talent from top to bottom, and the C’s could have had a shot at an NBA-ready player at 16.

However, the Celtics are in the Tatum and Brown era; picks are very tradable and hold less value than they did when the C’s were rebuilding. They are becoming trade assets to acquire higher-level talent rather than draft assets to build a foundation for the future.

Those are the ins and outs of the trade and how they impact the team moving forward. With Horford now on the roster, Tristan Thompson and Luke Kornet’s future with the Boston Celtics remains dim. Kornet will likely walk, and Thompson traded to a team in need of his interior presence. Ideally, the Celtics would want to get back some draft capital and a bench wing for Thompson, but we won’t know until it happens.

The only thing we do know is Brad Stevens is just getting started, and it’s going to be a wild ride as the playoffs come to a close.

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