Celtics “Up to Something” and Kemba’s Slump

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) loses control of the ball against the Utah Jazz in the first half during an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Hello and welcome back to a new edition of our Celtics weekly report. In this week’s edition we take a look at new rumors around the NBA of a possible Celtics trade and take a deeper look into the slow start of Kemba Walker’s season. 

Celtics In the Market For a Trade?  

As we discussed last week, the Celtics need to improve their bench in order to lift them into legitimate contention in the East, and as it turns out, the Celtics front office appears to be in agreement. On Tuesday, NBA writer Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported that he had been in conversations with insiders around the league about the Celtics being “On the prowl looking for a player out there.” He followed up saying how no names were mentioned yet, but that the Celtics have the assets to pull off a trade for a veteran wing or big man. This lines up with Celtics General Manager Danny Ainges’ comments on Toucher and Rich, part of 98.5 FM’s The Sports Hub, in which he emphasized the team’s need for “shooting with size.” If this is the case, the Celtics have plenty of assets to try and land a trade for a veteran shooter before the March 25 deadline. To start, the Celtics are still holding onto a historically large $28.5 million traded player exception thanks to the sign and trade that sent Gordan Hayward to the Hornets this offseason. Couple that with a flurry of young players and a valuable Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick, and the Celtics will surely have the cap space, and the assets to make a move before the deadline passes. However, despite all the obvious signs the Celtics are on the market, there is no guarantee a deal will be done. Rumors have flown the past two years about potential deadline deals to no avail, and despite Ainge’s history as an active trader, he has been hesitant to make a big trade as of late. On the flip side, this would be the year for the Celtics to make a deal, as many shooters and big men have proven they can be key rotational pieces for a Celtics team that needs size and shooting. Players like P.J. Tucker, Harrison Barnes or Thaddeus Young could make a huge impact off the bench with their shooting and defensive intensity, while also allowing the Celtics to play more of a small ball style, letting Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown attack the paint much more consistently. The deadline is still over a month away, and a lot can change from now, but I would keep an eye out for the Celtics to be aggressive at the trade deadline, especially with the play of Kemba Walker as of late.  

Kemba’s Play Is Key For The Celtics Success 

  I want to preface this section by saying I love Kemba. He is a legend at UConn thanks to his heroics in the 2011 Big East and NCAA Tournaments, and he has brandished a very successful NBA career in both Charlotte and now in Boston. Despite my love for Walker, his play is what will make or break the Celtics, and determine how far they are able to go this season. Since rejoining the team on Jan. 17, Walker has averaged 15 points per game on 34% shooting total and 30.6% from 3. Add on top of that a near career low in both rebounding and assists per game, and you are getting the production of an average point guard in the NBA at the price of a star. He and the team both claimed that he was fully healthy after his return to the lineup, but I question that statement. He does not look confident in his ability to shoot, especially close to the rim where he is only converting 35% of his layups this season, and looking visibly frustrated after missing. Combine this lack of efficiency with his woes from the 3-point line, and you get a player who is inefficient and seemingly not confident in his ability to score from the two most important places on the court. It is no secret that Kemba’s role on the Celtics is to score. He doesn’t have much defensive value apart from the occasional hustle play, and he isn’t exactly the best playmaker either. Without his scoring ability, Kemba’s role is undefined and just takes shots away from the stars in Tatum and Brown. I truly believe he will get better as the season progresses and he learns how to play on his knee again, but my worry is if it will come too late. While a normal season is 82 games, we are nearing the halfway point of a 72 game season this year, and unlike last year seeding will matter as teams will travel and have slight home court advantages in the playoffs. Currently the Celtics are sitting at the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, and only a game above the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers. A fifth seed or lower will mean the Celtics will be facing road games throughout the playoffs, and against good home teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. This means an incredibly tough path towards the Finals. Hopefully Walker is able to get back to his usual self, otherwise the Celtics will lose another year with their young core.  

Celtics Finally Back in the Garden  

The Celtics will finally be back home Thursday night coming off of a long west coast road trip and will host the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics are coming off a losing trip, winning just two of their last five games and are hoping to rebound with a victory against a Raptors team just one game behind them in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics are 5-3 at home this season and are primed to host the Detroit Pistons on Friday, then hit the road for one game against the Washington Wizards, before coming back to Boston to face off against the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks.  

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