Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Bringing aboard Walker would be a huge boost to the Celtics’ backcourt, giving them a superb replacement for Kyrie Irving compared to other potential options. However, there is no question that committing max money to Walker leaves some serious holes in the frontcourt. Al Horford and Aron Baynes were the defensive anchors for this team and the only pieces remaining are inexperienced youth.
Boston Sports Journal — Why the Celtics may be able to land a solid center and still sign Kemba Walker
Since Marc Stein dropped the news on Tuesday that the Celtics were a “stealth suitor” for Kemba Walker, the rumor has only picked up steam. NBCSports Boston flagged a tweet from a Dallas Morning News reporter stating that the Celtics are the front-runners for Walker’s services.
In short order, thousands of words have been spilled on Kemba to Boston, on everything including the fit, the cap gymnastics, the impact on the rest of the roster and how the deal will look years from now. Brian Robb’s summation in the paragraph above includes the big picture benefit (a superstar point guard to replace Kyrie Irving) and big picture question (how do the Celtics go about building front court depth?) of signing Walker, but that’s just the start of it.
Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report believes that Walker in Boston would stunt the growth of the youth movement on the Celtics’ roster:
For the past three years, Ainge has attempted to cultivate young talent while also competing at a high level with big-name stars. With Horford and Irving on the way out, he has the opportunity to commit fully to one path.
As much cultural sense as Walker could make, going star shopping in what looks to be a transitional year would not be his wisest option.
I see where Highkin is coming from, because I, like others, am not sure if a Walker/Tatum/Brown/Smart/Hayward core is good enough to seriously contend in an east with Philly, Milwaukee and Toronto. If it isn’t, then why not just really give the keys to Tatum and Brown this year and see what they can do with more touches and more responsibility?
Maybe the answer to that question is, “not enough.” When Irving wasn’t on the floor last year the Celtics offense really sputtered. As Jay King weighs pros and cons, he imagines a Celtics’ offense without Kemba Walker:
Without a player like him, the Celtics offense has dud potential for the coming season. Irving was not a unifying locker room force, but Walker’s character comes with high regard. Beyond that, adding top talent at a needed position is normally wise whenever possible.
Again, if Ainge and the Celtics’ brass don’t think a Walker addition gets them out of what King later calls “the NBA’s upper middle class” and into title contention, you might as well fill the roster out with veterans on one year deals, take stock in the youth on the roster, and try again next off-season. Other writers do think the Celtics should make a free agency splash, they just don’t think Walker is the guy:
The Celtics could start Vucevic next to Brown, Tatum, Hayward, and Marcus Smart in a lineup without a traditional point guard. Vucevic is skilled enough to be the fulcrum of the offense while the perimeter players all share ballhandling duties. That type of lineup would also allow Hayward to play more of a point forward role and set up Tatum and Brown instead of competing with them for touches on the wing next to a star point guard.
Jonathan Tjarks at The Ringer believes the Celtics would be wise to target Nic Vucevic over Kemba, so that the offense would indeed run through Tatum and Brown. While I’m not keen on throwing money at Vucevic, I do get his point that adding Walker might stunt the offensive growth of the Celtics’ two prized, young wings. And this season could be the best chance to really determine if you want to build the offense through the Js long term.
Finally, while Tjarks and others have positioned the Celtics as having a choice between a quality big and a stud point guard, Robb things the Celtics can have both. Signing Walker, and then still finding a decent starting big:
Opportunity is going to be key here for Boston in their pitch. They can offer the opportunity to play big minutes at center in an uptempo offensive system, which may help a player land a big money contract in their next deal. There won’t be a lot of appealing long-term deals available for the likes of Kanter or Robin Lopez, but both guys would give the C’s a starting caliber center at a bargain basement price, similar to what Baynes was two years ago.
Lots of possibilities, and Danny Ainge and co. have likely entertained some that we can’t even dream up right now. The time for conjecture is almost over. Three days away.
On page 2, Brad Stevens: poor communicator?
Brad Stevens carries a reputation as one of the NBA’s best coaches, but the Boston Celtics’ 2018-19 season didn’t help his cause.
That underwhelming campaign also raised questions about what role Stevens played in Boston falling short of expectations and likely losing Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to free agency this offseason.
NBA reporter Sean Deveney (formerly of Sporting News) added some interesting reporting to that narrative Wednesday, citing a “veteran player” and an agent who both have “griped” about Stevens’ communication during their tenures in Boston.
A veteran player told me a couple of years ago that his role in Boston was tough because he was never really told what was expected of him and that Stevens didn’t necessarily connect with players. That appeared to be the case this season, too, when the Celtics had a chemistry meltdown and Stevens could not rein in his locker room.
One agent told me, “Most players don’t need their hands held, but they want to know where they stand and what they need to do. That’s not always coming from Stevens and it can be frustrating.”
NBCsports Boston — Brad Stevens’ communication an issue for Celtics?
Keith Bogans? Kris Humphries? Tyler Zeller? Who’s the anonymous player and his agent voicing these concerns???
In six years we’ve heard nary a negative peep about Brad Stevens and his coaching style, but after a year like this one, the coach is not only susceptible to criticism, but also to anonymous lobs from past players. If the Celtics had won 60 games and made the finals this season, you likely wouldn’t have heard these complaints, even if they were from a player and an agent who haven’t been associated with the team for some time.
That’s not to say the gripes aren’t legitimate. Perhaps Brad needs to work on his communication with his players about their roles and minutes. I’d argue that Danny Ainge, lately, hasn’t made Stevens’ job easy in this regard. He’s provided rosters stocked with depth and often with positional redundancy.
Here we’ve been wondering what will happen to the Celtics’ depth if they sign Walker, but maybe a lineup with a clear-cut 8 guys is just what Brad needs.
I won’t put too much stock into anonymous critiques, but if the Cs have another disappointing year with chemistry issues, it’d be hard not to look at the coach and wonder if he can change his approach.