Report: Celtics trading Kemba Walker to Thunder for Al Horford

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In 2019, the Celtics let Al Horford leave for the 76ers rather than pay him more then used the resulting cap space to acquire Kemba Walker.

Now, Boston will effectively reverse that decision.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Horford earns $9,016,200 less than Walker would have with the Celtics next season. The following season, Horford’s salary is $11,153,300 lower than Walker’s. Just $14.5 million of Horford’s $26.5 million is guaranteed in that last season of his contract, so Boston could get even more savings (though not have Horford).

That financial aspect was at the heart of the deal and a key reason the Celtics sent the No. 16 pick to Oklahoma City.

Boston also got a helpful player in Horford. At age 35, he’s declining. But he should be relatively fresh next season and can still play a solid all-around game with his basketball intelligence, defensive acumen and shooting. New Celtics president Brad Stevens, who coached Horford in Boston, is obviously quite familiar with the big man.

This payroll reduction also makes it more likely the Celtics re-sign Evan Fournier, whose salary could have pushed them deep into the luxury tax.

Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard could become Boston’s rotation point guards, replacing Walker. But more moves are always possible as Boston builds around Jayson Tatum (23) and Jaylen Brown (24).

Especially with centers. The Celtics now overstocked at the position with Horford, Robert Williams, Tristan Thompson and Moses Brown.

A 21-year-old who went undrafted two years ago, the 7-foot-2 Brown showed some potential this season. He averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes per game after the All-Star break. He’s on a very team-friendly contract, locked in for an unguaranteed minimum salary the next three years.

Walker gets his desired change of scenery. Whether he waived his trade kicker will indicate just how badly he wanted to leave Boston, even to join rebuilding Oklahoma City.

For the Thunder, this was primarily about the pick. They now have three first-rounders in the upcoming draft – their own lottery pick, the No. 16 pick and either the No. 5 or No. 18 pick.*

*If the Rockets draw the No. 5 pick in the lottery (48% chance), Oklahoma City will get the selection. If Houston gets a top-four pick (52% chance), the Heat’s No. 16 pick will go to the Thunder.

Still, the Thunder can rehab Walker’s value like they did with Chris Paul and, to some degree, Horford. Walker is still a reasonable starting point guard. But at age 31 and with knee issues, he’s overpaid ($73,669,500 over the next two years without his trade kicker).

That salary was especially burdensome to the already-expensive Celtics. Not trying to win now, Oklahoma City can more easily absorb it.