Why Kemba Walker Will Be Better for the Celtics Than Kyrie Irving Was

Luke O'Connell, Editor-in-Chief

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     As the lifelong Celtics fan I am, and considering his recent addition to the team, I figured it would be beneficial to point out how Kemba Walker, a six time NBA All Star, has helped and will continue to help the Celtics organization to prosper more than Kyrie Irving did during his two year stay.

     First off, he’s a team player. Staying loyal to the Charlotte Hornets for eight years has got to mean something, especially considering how the team has struggled for so long. Playing on such a disappointing team while staying loyal is an honorable thing, and in an NBA where superteams come for a dime a dozen, it means even more. This is somewhat comparable to Damian Lillard’s seven-year stay with the Portland Trailblazers. Though the Blazers have had more success than the Hornets in recent years, both teams haven’t really been making waves like the Warriors or the Raptors, and both guards have stayed loyal to their teams through more thin than thick. 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

     In fact, Walker expressed how excited he is to be a part of the Celtics for the next four years under his $117 million contract, showing his likely loyalty. “Obviously Kyrie left, so it was an open point guard spot. It was just perfect. Boston is such a historic place. Who wouldn’t want to play for the Celtics?” Along with that, another example of his loyalty was his 2015 decision to  sign a $48-million 4-year extension with the Hornets rather than wait for a better offer later in the offseason. 

     Going off of that, Walker understands that team chemistry and a drama-free locker room are both necessary factors for a good team. Even when he’s on the bench, he knows how to be a good teammate, cheering on other players and staying positive during games. Specifically, he can be heard cheering on his teams in “Mic’d Up” segments of the early 2019 NBA season, along with last summer’s USAB practices and scrimmages. From complimenting a teammate’s style to motivating his teammates to keep working, Walker is a team player at heart.

     What we can see from this is that his team-oriented playstyle and positive mentality will likely be a better fit with the Celtics organization and Brad Stevens’ coaching style.  Compared to Kyrie, who was the stem of all the locker room problems the Celtics suffered through last season, I believe that Walker will be able to lead the team to a deep playoff run. 

     Some things that really amaze me about Walker’s game are his agility, speed, and ability to not only make it to the hole, but also finish through contact despite his size. After watching some film and keeping tabs on his game over the years, it’s amazing to see how he thrives in the NBA even though he is only 6’1”. Over the 2018 season he’s averaged a similar stat line to Irving, and beat him out in points per game and games played. Along with that, he beats out Irving in a few areas when tracking stats per 100 possessions: he scored 35.7 points, hit 4.4 threes, and led his team to a higher +/- rating of +6.5 by that metric.

     Overall, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker have very similar playstyles, but with Walker’s team-oriented abilities and mentality, I believe he’ll help the C’s more than Irving ever did. In a June 2019 press conference, Danny Ainge, the Celtics GM, said it himself: “I think it just makes life more enjoyable when everybody is humble, hardworking, and will play any role they have to to help the team succeed. You do have to have a certain amount of talent to win in our league, as we all know, but good people makes coming to work more fun.” I believe that Walker will add to the positive mentality of the team, will work well with his teammates, and will help the team go further than they have with Kyrie Irving.