The Boston Celtics pulled off the first big move of NBA free agency about 24 hours before free agency even starts. According to multiple media reports, Boston has signed All-Star guard Kemba Walker to a four-year, $141 million max contract.
Walker’s deal with Boston comes after the Charlotte Hornets offered him about $61 million less than the five-year, $221 million deal that he could have received after earning All-NBA honors last season.
Here, we check in on the biggest winners and losers from this reported blockbuster signing.
Winner: Jayson Tatum
It was always going to be questionable if Tatum could handle the load as Boston’s No. 1 scorer following the eventual departure of Kyrie Irving. The young forward won’t have to worry about that anymore. Walker heads to Boston having averaged 25.2 points per game last season. He’ll be the top option with Tatum filling in nicely as the Celtics’ No. 2 option. That’s only going to help the 21-year-old Tatum up his game even more.
Loser: Charlotte Hornets
For a team that has not had any success with Michael Jordan leading the front office charge, it was an absolute shock to realize how much Charlotte low-balled Walker. It offered him just $160 million over five seasons, $61 million less than what Walker was eligible to receive. All the while, these Hornets are paying out some garbage contracts to less-than-stellar players. They can’t even go into full-scale rebuild after losing Walker. That’s a major loss for Jordan and Co. It also represents a major black eye for His Airness.
Winner: Kemba Walker
Here’s a dude that has upped his game every single season since being selected ninth overall back in the 2011 NBA Draft. Walker is coming off a career-best performance and will trade in the small market of Charlotte for the bright lights of Boston. To be clear, the pressure is going to be on Walker in Beantown. He’s now the face of a team with legitimate NBA title aspirations. As we saw with Kyrie Irving last season, things can snowball in Boston under those circumstances. But for now, Walker has to be considered a major winner.
Loser: Kyrie Irving
Boston did not even wait until Irving committed to the Brooklyn Nets before reportedly signing Walker. This just goes to show us how bad things have gotten between the two sides. The Celtics weren’t even going to pitch a return to Boston. Think about that for a second. Sure Irving will get a max deal with Brooklyn once free agency opens. But the backdrop here is real. His reputation has taken a major hit. And if Walker were to excel in Boston, it would create even more questions regarding Irving’s status as a franchise player.
Winner: Danny Ainge
We have to give Boston’s embattled general manager some credit here. Most were freaking out once reports surfaced that the Celtics were going to lose both Irving and Al Horford in free agency. Another report indicated that the Celtics were unwilling to part with Jayson Tatum in a trade for Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard. What was the plan here? Well, that’s answered. Adding Walker to the mix makes Boston a legit contender. He’ll team up with Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward to form a talented team. If the Celtics can add a starting center, it will be gravy.
Loser: Malik Monk
Charlotte selected Monk No. 11 overall back in 2011 to team him up with Walker in the back court. It never really panned out with Monk averaging 7.9 points and less than 16 minutes of action per game. With Walker gone, the onus is going to fall on Monk to live up to pre-draft expectations. Based on what we’ve seen, he likely won’t be up for the task. At the very least, Walker’s departure makes Monk’s job more difficult.