The Boston Celtics shocked the NBA world once already this offseason with Coach Brad Stevens moving upstairs to replace Danny Ainge as president of basketball operations. Another surprise arrived Friday when Stevens made his first big move: Trading former All-Star guard Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Next up for Stevens is hiring someone to replace himself on the bench, and former Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle has become an immediate contender via SportsLine NBA oddsmakers.
Boston wasn't going to trade All-Stars Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown this offseason, so it figured that Walker could be the one to go to shake things up after a hugely disappointing year. Alas, the Celtics didn't really much better in sending him to the Thunder along with the No. 16 overall pick in 2021 and a 2025 second-round pick for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round pick.
This is strictly a salary dump -- that Boston had to throw in a first-round pick tells you that.
Walker has two years left on a contract worth more than $73 million, and the 31-year-old four-time All-Star isn't worth that these days. Walker has a bad left knee that delayed the start of his 2020-21 season – he didn't play any back-to-backs and missed the final two games of the Celtics' first-round loss to the Nets with a bone bruise in his left knee – and his numbers were all down: 19.3 ppg and 4.9 apg. Perhaps the Celtics are ready to turn point guard duties over to young Payton Pritchard?
Horford, 36 in June, played for the Celtics from 2016-19 and was a very good player then, but the five-time All-Star is past his prime -- still a solid player. The Thunder shut him down during this past season and simply paid him not to play because they were in tank mode and didn't want to risk Horford getting injured so they could trade him. In the 28 games he did play, Horford averaged 14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He has two years left on his contract at around $53 million.
Via the SportsLine Projection Model (see below), both teams got a bit better for the 2021-22 season via this deal. Model creator Stephen Oh ran "neutral power sims," which are each team simulated vs. every other team home and away to calculate the winning percentage of each team if they were all playing the same schedule. He then multiplied that winning percentage by 82 games to estimate how many games the trade impacted both clubs for next year.
|w/ Al Horford||57.10%||46.8|
| || || |
|w/ Kemba Walker||27.50%||22.6|
Carlisle, meanwhile, surprisingly stepped down from the Mavericks on Thursday after 13 seasons and one NBA title. His departure came one day after the departure of longtime president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Carlisle, who had been the NBA's third-longest-tenured head coach, had a 555-478 record during his 13 seasons in Dallas.
There are now seven head coaching openings and Carlisle figures to be a candidate -- if he doesn't want a year off -- for all but obviously Dallas. Carlisle began his non-descript NBA playing career in 1984 with the Celtics; he also has ties to the Pacers and Trail Blazers (assistant in both places), who have openings.
Potentially working against Carlisle is that Stevens is already well down the road in terms of interviews. There also have been numerous reports that the team wants to hire a Black coach for a few reasons. A few current players have essentially called out the team do to so on social media, and here's what former Celtics great Cedric Maxwell recently said:
"(Hiring a person of color as coach is) important because if you look at the Celtics front office, if you look at most of those people who are there, who have been in the front office, ownership, everything else, those people aren't of color. I think it would help the players if they found somebody who they could relate to maybe a little bit more," he said.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Favorites as next Celtics coach
- Chauncey Billups +300
- Sam Cassell +300
- Ime Udoka +500
- Rick Carlisle +600
- Jason Kidd +800
- Kara Lawson +900
- Darvin Ham +1000
- Charles Lee +1200
- Becky Hammon +1200
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it has returned almost $9,100 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks over the past two-plus seasons. The model is up almost $700 on its top-rated picks this season and entered this week of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on a stunning 100-66 roll on top-rated NBA picks against the spread dating to last season. Anybody who has followed it has seen HUGE returns.