The Boston Celtics are hoping Kemba Walker can do what two other All-Star PGs couldn’t and that’s lead them to a championship. In 2016, they were led by Isaiah Thomas. After Thomas, the keys to the team were handed over to Kyrie Irving, now it’s Walker’s time to guide the franchise. Can he do it?
In 2016, Thomas and his small statue took the Celtics to new heights. He was being mentioned as an MVP candidate with averages of 28.9 points, 5.9 assists while shooting .463 percent from the floor. Thomas led the Celtics to the playoffs with a 53-29 record. But as quick as that success came, it vanished. Thomas never lost his game, the Celtics lost their confidence in him. In 2017, Thomas was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. And that began another chapter in the new era of the Boston Celtics.
When Irving arrived, his presence added that twinge of excitement for a franchise used to winning games and championships. As good as Thomas had played, he didn’t have a ring to his resume or the experience of a Finals Series to learn on. But Irving did.
So, what Danny Ainge did was surround Irving with a great supporting cast that included Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, and former All-Star Gordon Hayward. The Celtics were stacked and ready to win. However, it all went downhill pretty quickly. First game of the 2018 season, Hayward went down and was lost for the year. Then, Irving dealt with his own injuries and the team never had a chance to show their true potential.
The following year, it was more of the same for Irving and the Celtics. They swept the Indiana Pacers in the first round then would lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round 4-1. Then came the whispers and the rumors that Irving was not happy with the Celtics and vice versa. That offseason, Kyrie signed with the Brooklyn Nets and the Celtics somehow managed to snag another All-Star player in Kemba Walker.
Ainge loves a scoring PG but how has that turned out for the Celtics over the last four years? Playoffs? Yes. But neither of the players have led the Boston Celtics past the Eastern Conference Finals. With Walker running the team now, Ainge is hoping he’s found the leader he needs. As good as Walker has been throughout his career, the playoffs have been his Achilles Heel of sorts. 8.5 years in the NBA and he’s tasted the playoffs just twice.
With that said, Walker has more to prove than Irving does. With Irving, it was all about having his own team. He wanted to be out of the spotlight of LeBron James. Maybe he was tired of the Finals appearances. If the Celtics can succeed with Walker, in just one season he would have done more for the Celtics than Irving did in his time there. Thomas was the heart of the team while he was there and his departure was heartbreaking but maybe it was necessary.
On the season, Kemba Walker is averaging 21.8 points while leading the Celtics to a 39-16 record for third-best in the East. For the Celtics, the regular season stats mean nothing. It’s what happens in the playoffs where the true measure of their PGs will be judged,
If Walker can take the Celtics to the Finals, he’ll have a spot for the rest of his career. But if he fails, he could find himself on the chopping block the same way Thomas and Irving did.