"I've been with the Hornets for eight years, and maybe one time we had some expectations. This year, there will be expectations…I've never had this feeling."
– Kemba Walker on joining the Celtics pic.twitter.com/LzVDSqMLKm
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) August 7, 2019
The Celtics were arguably one of the most disappointing teams in the league last year. They were expected to breeze through the east, but ended up losing pretty badly to the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals. Although they weren’t expected to acquire Kemba Walker in free agency, they moved fast once they knew Kyrie was leaving, and secured his services pretty early in the offseason. The Celtics, although still talented, are likely a tier below the Sixers and the Bucks in the east’s hierarchy. The loss of Al Horford would seem to be pretty rough as well, given he was their best defender against guys like Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Fortunately for Walker, this will still be by far the most talented supporting cast he’s ever had, so it’s entirely possible that he can prove to be an upgrade over Irving. It’s not unimaginable to think he shocks the league and leads the Celtics on a deep run this season.
Kemba Walker Fantasy Stats
Walker is one of the most skilled and underrated guards in the league. Last year, he had his best season yet and ended up earning All-NBA honors for the first time in his career. He managed to do all this despite having one of the worst supporting casts in the league. Now that he’s on a competent team, he seems primed to make another leap in his career. He’ll even get a chance to gel with some of his teammates on Team USA this summer. One thing most people agree on, is that Kemba’s a significantly better teammate than Kyrie was, and some think he’s a better leader as well. After years of being a one-man team, Kemba will have the opportunity he’s been waiting his entire career for. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him make the most of it and turn in a career best season. His ceiling is a 27 point per game, 4 rebound per game, 7 assist per game, and 1.5 steal per game season.
Although this will easily be Kemba’s best supporting cast in his career, the change in scenery may not be all positive. He’ll have to deal with the most expectations he’s ever had, including being tasked with fixing the mess Kyrie left behind. Boston is also far different than Charlotte, as the media and fans in the city can be notoriously prickly. Although having their support can be a phenomenal feeling, having their scorn can be equally as troubling. There’s also the possibility that some of his new teammates, mainly Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, may not respond to positively towards having to take a backseat role again. They didn’t respond well with Kyrie, so they may not respond well to Kemba either. If things don’t click for Kemba in Boston, he could have a disappointing season. His floor is a season where he averages 22 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal a game.
What to Expect
Kemba Walker is currently ranked as the 5th best point guard in fantasy and the 16th best overall. He’s expected to be drafted in the late first round or early second and holds an auction value of $34. Walker will likely be one of the best second options in fantasy, with the potential to become a first option if he performs better than expected in Boston. There’s always some risk to drafting a player joining a new team, but Walker is talented enough and Brad Stevens is a good enough coach to create an exception. Given that he’s only missed 5 games his last 4 years, his health is likely something that won’t be questioned. He’s a very good option at his draft position and comes with relatively little risk. There shouldn’t be any regrets over drafting him.
The Celtics now face a much more uncertain future than they did a year ago. Once expected to be the titans of the conference, they now settle in a somewhat awkward place. They’re clearly better than some of the other middling playoff teams in the conference, but it’s hard to see them competing against teams like the Sixers or Bucks in a seven-game series. There’s hope that if Kemba can replace Kyrie’s production and cause less of a headache, and the Celtics’ youngsters can make a leap, they’ll be able to be contenders in the east. I’m not totally sold on the Celtic’s youth yet, but Walker has had a sterling record and I don’t think it gets dirtied in Boston. I foresee a strong season for Kemba, one where he averages 25 points, 4 boards, 6 assists, and 1 steal a game on career high efficiency.
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