The Celtics announced that Walker will be sidelined until at least early January as he continues to rehab a left knee injury, according to a team press release.
It’s the same knee that plagued Walker during the 2019-20 season.
Even though the Celtics are bummed that Walker is going to be sidelined to begin the upcoming season, the All-Star’s absence from the lineup could actually be a blessing in disguise for Boston.
Kemba Walker may not be 100% again with the Celtics
During the 2020 playoffs, where the Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, Walker averaged 19.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 17 games. It was clear as day that the former Charlotte Hornets star wasn’t even close to 100%.
Celtics fans were hoping that getting some rest in the offseason would help Walker’s knee heal up. However, that wasn’t the case and now Boston will likely be embarking on the 2020-21 season with Jeff Teague as the starting point guard until Walker is ready to play again, according to Brian Robb of the Boston Sports Journal.
Due to his aggressive playstyle and fragile knees, Walker may not be 100% again during his time with the Celtics. That has to be a cause of concern for Boston general manager Danny Ainge, who is paying Walker superstar money moving forward.
The hope within the Celtics organization is that Walker will be close to his elite self when it matters the most in the 2021 playoffs.
Jayson Tatum’s usage rate is going to rise with Kemba Walker out
Celtics star small forward Jayson Tatum was already the No. 1 option on offense in Beantown before Walker’s knee started acting up again.
Now that Walker is out for the foreseeable future, the Celtics’ offense is sitting in the palm of Tatum’s hands.
Last season, Tatum made his first All-Star team and established himself as one of the best scorers in the NBA. He averaged 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 66 games and shot 45.0% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc.
Like most high-level players do, Tatum took his game to another level in the 2020 playoffs since Walker wasn’t himself. The 22-year-old put up 25.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.
The Celtics signed Tatum to a lucrative rookie-scale extension this offseason worth $195 million. He is clearly the face of the franchise and going to see a rise in his usage rate this upcoming season now that Walker–Boston’s second option on offense–is out.
Tatum may as well get comfortable being the man every night for the Celtics. For Boston to win a title, the talented swingman will have to put the franchise on his back and play elite basketball on both ends of the floor.
Without Walker to help him out with his electric scoring skills, Tatum will be forced to take his offensive game to the next level for the Celtics this upcoming season while Walker is rehabbing his left knee.
That is going to pay off in the long run for Boston.
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart’s value to Celtics will be appreciated more
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart have found themselves in trade rumors for the past couple of seasons. Even though Ainge loves both players, Jayson Tatum is believed to be the only Celtics player untouchable in trade talks if a superstar player becomes available on the trade market.
However, with Walker out to begin the upcoming season, the Celtics are going to get a real sense of how valuable Brown and Smart are to the team.
Gordon Hayward left the Celtics in free agency for the Hornets, so Brown is going to step into more of a scoring role for Boston in 2020-21 and serve as Tatum’s partner in crime on offense until Walker is back in the lineup.
That’s going to be huge for Brown’s confidence once the 2021 playoffs start. The Celtics need another reliable half-court option behind Tatum and Walker and Brown will be able to fit that bill in the postseason after getting comfortable in the role during the regular season.
Everyone in Boston already knows what Smart brings to the team on the defensive end of the floor.
With Walker out, though, Smart is going to be asked to do more on offense and history has shown that the rugged defender always comes through for the Celtics when the team puts more on his plate.
So while the Celtics are a little worried about Kemba Walker’s health this season, the presence of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will help alleviate the front office’s concerns.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference