The Boston Celtics were the favorites to win the Eastern Conference last season, and the expectation entering the year was that they would bring Kyrie Irving back long term and be the top team in the East for years to come.
Unfortunately for them, the season didn’t go as planned and they were bounced in the second round of the playoffs and their plans to run it back were dashed. Irving is now expected to go to Brooklyn, while Al Horford declined his player option with the intent to sign elsewhere for a big deal this summer.
Most expected the Celtics to shift towards future-facing moves this summer, but it seems they’re going to at least make a run at some big names. Boston can get to north of $34 million in cap space, per Early Bird Rights, if they wanted to, which means they can be in play for a max guy that isn’t already on their roster. The name that has most recently come up as a possible target for the Celtics is Kemba Walker, per Marc Stein, who would be quite the Kyrie replacement if they could get him.
As Stein notes, the Celtics have to make a number of decisions before they can get to max room, as they’d need to renounce their rights to a number of players, but if Walker does have interest it would make sense to chase him. Walker seems like he’d be a bit of a better fit than Irving, and while they would still need to shore up their frontcourt rotation with Horford gone — and to sign Walker they would have to renounce Horford’s Bird rights — it would keep them from a real free fall.
This also simply could be either the Celtics or Walker’s agent trying to make a little noise in the week leading up to free agency. Walker’s camp has reason to put the pressure on Charlotte to offer the supermax (or other teams to come to the table early with their best deals), while the Celtics always enjoy being thought of as a player for top guys, even if they aren’t ready to bring the best offers.