One of the more interesting stories heading into 2019 NBA free agency on June 30 was that of Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets.
The All-Star point guard has spent the first eight seasons of his career with the Hornets, improving himself exponentially but has made just two playoff appearances since being the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Despite the lack of team success, Walker expressed a desire to return to the Hornets and even spoke about potentially taking less money to stay. Unfortunately, the team’s salary cap situation is less than stellar thanks to some overpriced deals for role players.
As such, negotiations between Walker and the Hornets quickly broke down as they were not willing to pay the amount of money required to keep Walker around. However, there were plenty of teams more than willing to cough up the money and the Boston Celtics quickly emerged as a favorite.
Before free agency even officially began, there were reports that Walker was likely to sign with the Celtics and now according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, he has signed a four-year, $141 million deal with them:
Free agent Kemba Walker has agreed to sign a four-year, $141M maximum contract to join the Boston Celtics, Excel Sports agent Jeff Schwartz tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 30, 2019
The move makes a lot of sense on both sides. The Celtics needed a point guard replacement with Kyrie Irving headed out the door and Walker does a lot of things on the court that he does. For Walker, it allows him to join a contender in the Eastern Conference and get the pay and playoff competition that a player of his level undoubtedly desires.
In relative obscurity, Walker has turned himself into one of the league’s best scoring point guards. His ball-handling has led to him appearing on plenty of highlight reels and his shooting has greatly improved, going from a 30.5% three-point shooter as a rookie to as high as 39.9% two seasons ago — and at least 35% or better in each of the last four seasons.
The question now becomes what this means for the other big names remaining in free agency. The Celtics will no longer be a player in free agency as the likes of Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard are still figuring out their decisions.
For the Los Angeles Lakers, this takes away another of the big-name point guards in free agency as Irving is expected to join the Nets and the possibilities after that drop off a level. There have been discussions about D’Angelo Russell but aside from that, the Lakers may be looking at a mid-level player to run the show.