Celtics

NBA Notebook: Celtics Trade Value Rankings – The Top 4

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With up to 14 players (pending player options) potentially under contract for the Celtics heading into the 2020-21 season, Danny Ainge has a lot of options this offseason as he tries to improve his roster and build the Celtics into a formidable contender.

The crowded depth chart indicates consolidation is an option Boston’s front office is going to need to explore. There is not going to be enough room for everyone to play regular minutes in a healthy rotation, and there are necessary improvements that need to be made to bolster depth after a disappointing finish in the Eastern Conference Finals.

To sort through it all, let’s take a closer look at the team’s roster in part 3 of the 2020 Celtics trade value power rankings. We’ll complete the full list in coming days but you can catch up by looking at spots No. 14-11, the value of the young guys in spots No. 10-8 in Part 2 and some key veteran parts in Part 3 

Criteria: This isn’t simply ranking the best-to-worst players on the roster. There is significantly more that goes into a player’s trade value around the league than just talent (although that’s important). A player’s age, contract situation and injury history are all vital factors. Multiple scouts from around the league were consulted as this list was put together.

4. Kemba Walker
Age: 30
2019-20 salary: $32.7 million
Remaining contract: Three years, $108 million (Final year is a player option)
2019-20 stats: 20.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 42.5% FG, 38.1% 3pt, 31.1 mpg

Overview: There are plenty of teams in the NBA that would love to have an All-Star point guard on their roster and that’s what Walker was, at least for the first four months of the 2019-20 season. However, the extended period of soreness around Walker’s knee during the majority of 2020 calendar year is certainly a cause of concern for the Celtics and the point guard, something Danny Ainge acknowledged at his season-ending press conference.

“There's no surgery needed or anything else that I'm aware of at this time,” Ainge said of Walker’s offseason plan last month. “I wasn't there (in Orlando), I was watching from here, but I could see,…but he was definitely not himself. In fairness to Kemba, he doesn't want to say that. He doesn't say that to our coaches, he doesn't say that to you, the media, he doesn't say that to me. I haven't heard one excuse from him. But watching the games, even the games we won, even the games where he played well, I could tell he wasn't the same physically as he was in October, November, December. So we're going to try to get that Kemba back. And I know Kemba wants to be back 100 percent, and playing his best basketball. Even not his best he still averaged 19 or 20 points per game in the playoffs, he still is a really good player. But he's not what he was.”

Walker won’t be going anywhere in the short-term and that’s not solely because his knee is a question mark. It would be a bad look for Boston to deal a max free agent just one year after he signed to a four-year contract, unless they were bowled over with an offer (that’s not happening here). Given that there are only 11 players currently in line to make more money than Walker in salary next season, it’s fair to surmise that Walker is overpaid even when he’s at his best but that’s the case for most players on max deals around the league. He’s still in his prime from an age standpoint and was clearly a positive locker room presence that this Celtics team needed last year after a rollercoaster 2018-19 campaign.

With the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown alongside him, there will be less pressure on Walker in 2021 from a night-to-night standpoint and that should help from a health management standpoint. The Celtics spent the bubble trying to get his health and conditioning to its best possible level and I’d expect that to be more of a full season goal during the 2020-21 season since getting Walker playing at 100 percent health during the postseason has to be the No. 1 goal now to maximize the team’s chances. A bounceback season after his knee woes limited his effectiveness down the stretch should help rehab his trade value and the C’s chances moving forward. If not, there could be some buyer’s remorse on this max deal.

What could Celtics get for him? Nothing worthwhile, not going anywhere this offseason.

3. Marcus Smart
Age: 26
2019-20 salary: $12.6 million
Remaining contract: Two years, $27.8 million
2019-20 stats: 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 37.5% FG, 34.5% 3pt, 32 mpg

Overview: The All-NBA First Team defender has turned a contract that was once considered a bit of an overpay (four years, $52 million) into one of the best non-rookie contract bargains in the league. Smart’s season ended ugly from a shooting standpoint in