In the midst of the NBA Playoffs, news broke Friday morning that the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Boston Celtics have agreed to a trade that will drastically shape the 2021-22 season for both teams.
Per NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder is sending Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics in exchange for Kemba Walker, the 16th pick in the upcoming 2021 draft, and a 2025 second-round pick.
The move is not exactly a shocking one as Al Horford has a history with the Celtics, and Thunder GM Sam Presti has worked tirelessly over the last year to send Horford to a contending team where he will be more suited. Horford has 2 years remaining on his contract, and he is set to earn $27 million next season.
The Kemba Walker experiment in Boston has seen varied success, but after missing 44 regular season games in his two seasons with the Celtics and with 2 years and almost $74 million remaining on his contract, the separation was bound to happen.
Trust the Presti
Sam Presti is positioning to make a splash on Draft Night. The Draft Lottery is in just a few days, and once OKC knows where exactly they will be drafting, Presti will get to work on putting together a game plan to make the moves that he needs to make in order to get the player or players that he wants.
Little doubt remains that Presti is a skilled craftsman. For years now, he has moved unmovable contracts, turned questionable draft picks into skilled contributors, and let’s not forget that perhaps one of his greatest moves in his long tenure with the Thunder was signing undrafted free agent Luguentz Dort.
Moving two key big men puts the Thunder at a fork in the road. Either Presti has every intention of going after a big man, perhaps Evan Mobley out of the University of Southern California, or maybe he intends to move to a smaller style of basketball by putting Isaiah Roby at the 5. Either way, don’t doubt Presti’s abilities. Draft Night is going to be fun for Thunder fans.
Don’t Expect Kemba to Play in OKC
When it comes to Kemba Walker, I’m a big fan. I picked UConn to win the NCAA Tournament back in 2009 solely because of what Walker did as he led the Huskies to the Big East Tournament. Since he entered the league, he’s been one of my favorite non-Thunder players to watch and track, and I always thought he needed help in Charlotte. I legitimately thought he would push the Celtics to the brink of winning an NBA Championship. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his abilities to contribute to Boston’s success when they needed him most.
Now Sam Presti is faced with the dauntless task of either paying out a high contract to an injury-stricken player or attempting to move him to a team in exchange for something to make it worth OKC’s while. If history tells us anything, it’s that Presti can certainly get more than plenty in return, but as to when that will happen, I’m not sure. My money, however, is on Kemba Walker never playing in a Thunder uniform.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love Kemba Walker. I have so much respect for his game, and I wouldn’t mind if he played alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort in the backcourt. The fact remains, though, that he’s not exactly healthy, and his lucrative contract is the opposite direction that OKC is trying to go right now. Don’t be shocked if Kemba is moved on or before Draft Night.
This trade falls in the rare category of a win for both sides. OKC moves Horford’s contract and picks up another solid draft pick, while Boston moves Walker’s contract and picks up 2 valuable big men, the roster spot where they’ve suffered the most.
True trade value is never completely realized immediately, but I feel safe in saying that this is a deal that will benefit both sides down the road. At the very least, I’m excited about what Presti is going to be able to do now that he has more options for making moves on Draft Night. Don’t sleep on the GOAT of GMs. Sam Presti is far from done.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ZacharyLowNBA for more Thunder updates, breakdowns, and opinions.