Dallas vs Boston: Which is a Better Free Agency Fit For Kemba Walker?
I don’t like this. A Woj bomb that came from someone other than Woj? I feel unfaithful. Regardless, earlier today the reliable Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that the Boston Celtics have become “stealth” suitors for Kemba Walker. Later in the day he upgraded his report and said that the Celtics and Dallas Mavericks are on the “front line” of pursuers.
Danny Ainge and the Celtics could free up to $34 million in cap space this summer, giving them the $32.7 million required to offer Walker the maximum amount. The Mavericks could also find a way to land Walker while also extending Kristaps Porzingis. Of course, the Charlotte Hornets could retain Walker by offering him a longer and more lucrative deal than any other competitor.
For those who hit the NBA snooze button until the postseason started, check out OTG’s free agency profile on Walker. His shooting percentages won’t wow you but UConn’s finest carried the load for his squad throughout the entire season. There is legitimate reason to believe that Walker could become a better player when surrounded by more talented teammates. Could those teammates potentially be Luka Doncic and Porzingis? Or perhaps Jayson Tatum and his cohorts?
The Case For Signing With Dallas
Going into free agent pitches, Dallas brass will surely brag about having the NBA Rookie of the Year on their team. Doncic has a chance to become a revelatory pick and roll playmaker. Yet, he can play off of the ball as well. If Walker signed with Dallas, would it be a stretch to declare that Doncic will already be the most talented teammate he has ever had?
At first statistical glance, these two do not seem like a perfect pairing. Last season Walker finished in the 51st percentile on catch and shoot triples while Doncic finished only slightly higher. Although they are good enough, these numbers do not exactly jump off of the page to indicate basketball chemistry. It is fair to question if taking touches away from Doncic is a smart move.
Trust your eyes, however. These two could really shine in creative sets that take advantage of their ability to improvise. Due to their respective high basketball IQs and competent jumpers, these two will always have a defender glued to them. This should create ample, easy backdoor cut opportunities as either Walker or Doncic manipulate v-cuts, handoffs and slips.
Pending a re-sign, Dallas should also be bringing back a star big man. If they can figure out how to function together, the trio of Porzingis, Doncic and Walker could be the most vaunted playmaking and scoring combination in the league. Not only do all three of these men have gravity but, the scoring and facilitating prowess to maximize it.
The rest of the Mavericks’ roster should provide enough shooting and I trust the Dallas staff to fill out supplementary roles with limited leftover cap space. With a sudden injection of parity in the Western Conference, a deep playoff run could be possible if Walker makes the income tax-free state of Texas his home.
The Case For Signing With Boston
Despite the Kyrie Irving debacle still being fresh in the wounds of Celtics fans, they must acknowledge that Brad Stevens has a way of maximizing the talent of point guards. Isaiah Thomas and Irving each had their best statistical seasons in Boston, while Terry Rozier’s 2017-18 postseason performance inspired “should we trade Kyrie?” debates all over Twitter.
Kemba Walker could become the next point guard to undergo this evolution. He would be doing it alongside a promising cast, too. Despite causing headaches with his shot selection and refusal to get to the line, Tatum’s prospective ceiling remains remarkably high. The ceiling for Jaylen Brown is encouraging as well, as many would argue he outplayed Tatum towards season’s end. If Gordon Hayward continues his revival, Boston could start four players who each possess their own unique scoring talent.
Additionally, draft picks Carson Edwards and Grant Williams are both NBA-ready players. Spending their salary exception on a playable center would be necessary but, it is doable. In Boston Walker would be playing for the best coach he has ever had with a player (Tatum) who could potentially rival Doncic as Walker’s most talented teammate. Plus, the Boston faithful would welcome Walker and his selfless play as the perfect Irving hangover cure.
As a Connecticut native and Celtics supporter, I certainly have some bias in this debate. There’s a scenario where Kawhi Leonard leaves Toronto, one of either Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris ditches Philadelphia, and the Celtics compete for a 2 or 3 seed in the East with Walker.
There is also a scenario unfolding in the West. With the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, as well as a potential roster shakeup in Houston, would anyone be surprised if a Walker-led Dallas squad jumps from a former lottery team to a 4 seed? Owner Mark Cuban has never been afraid to swing for the fences and his front office could put Walker in position to make his deepest playoff run yet.
Dallas also has security. Doncic, and presumably Porzingis, will be locked into long term contracts. The threesome of Tatum, Brown and Smart should also remain under team control for a while given the status of their contracts.
If Walker leaves it is likely because he wants to compete right away. He could team up with the electric Doncic and look to weave his way throughout a brutal conference. Or, he could choose what may be an easier path to the finals and hope the future Memphis pick owed to Boston becomes the player to get them past monsters like Giannis and Embiid. We can only wait and see.