The Boston Celtics’ offseason plan has changed several times over the course of the last three weeks. Kyrie Irving’s imminent departure comes as no surprise, but Al Horford’s decision to opt out and look elsewhere was an unexpected blow. Boston then seemed to be pivoting to the future after using all of their picks and trading away Aron Baynes during last week’s draft. Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, and Carsen Edwards seemed primed to become key parts of the next Celtics core with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
However, over the last several days, it was reported the Celtics would be in contention to sign Kemba Walker, one of the top free agents available this summer. On Thursday, Adrian Wojnarowski reported Boston has emerged as a “frontrunner” to sign the star point guard.
Walker would be a huge signing for the Celtics, and it could be one that revitalizes the franchise after a nuclear disaster of a season and subsequent offseason. While Brown and Tatum are still widely considered two of the better young talents in the league, they aren’t yet ready to take the reigns. With the mass exodus of veterans from Boston, the idea of a Celtics championship window was a thing of the past. With Walker, that may not necessarily be the case.
Walker alone won’t make the Celtics contenders unless Tatum and Brown both take gigantic leaps forward. But a Walker signing, paired with a low-cost free agent center à la Dwayne Dedmon or Robin Lopez, would make Boston a complete team. They wouldn’t be receiving the same level of hype they did last year, but that’s probably for the better. Brad Stevens teams have always played better when little of expected of them, instead of the other way around.
The most important impact Walker would have, and it cannot be overstated, is the leadership he’ll bring to the locker room. Unlike Irving, Walker wouldn’t be forcing his way out of Charlotte under questionable circumstances after a series of locker room incidents. He’d be coming to Boston with one objective: to win. All of his former teammates and coaches have raved about Walker’s leadership qualities and his work ethic. Last year’s Celtics will go down in history as the prototypical example of why locker room chemistry matters just as much as the talent on the floor. Taking the players who lived it last season and adding a person like Walker will be a breath of fresh air.
The long-term goal if Boston does sign Walker still remains unclear. But rolling into next year with only the young guys would have been an admission of defeat and a truly deflating experience. There’s still a lot of work to be done after Walker to be considered threats to come out of the East, much less win the Finals. Yet after a season of absolutely everything going wrong, Walker might be the first step towards making things right in Boston.