Boston Celtics PG Kemba Walker is out until at least January after receiving stem cell injections in his knee. He is expected to resume on-court activities early in December as training camp is set to begin Tuesday. The injections were in his left knee and he was on a strengthening program heading into the 2020-21 NBA season. The Celtics will provide an update on his status the first week of 2021.
Walker had been the big acquisition by the Celtics last offseason in a trade with the Charlotte Hornets. The Celtics sent G Terry Rozier to Charlotte as part of a sign-and-trade deal. Walker then inked a four-year, $140.8 million deal with Boston. Walker was solid in his first season with the Celtics, averaging over 20 PPG in 56 games while making the All-Star game.
Heading into this season, the Celtics had been rumored to be trying to move Walker. Knowing what we know now about his knee, it’s hard to believe those rumors were true. Nobody would be dealing for damaged goods, though this doesn’t appear to be a serious injury. Walker could only miss the first week or so of the season, which is being shortened down to 72 games.
If you’re targeting Walker in your season-long draft it’s safe to say you can likely wait on him now. As a result of the injury, we should see Kemba drop down a bit in standard drafts. I had him pegged at No. 44 in my top 100 rankings, just inside the top 50. I’d say with this news, the shortened schedule and uncertainty surrounding Walker to start, I wouldn’t touch Kemba inside the top 50 — so at least the first four rounds or so. In deeper formats I’d be especially safe here. If Walker drops and you have IR slots, however, feel free to stash him. If the injections work, he could come back stronger than ever.
As for short-term replacements, the Celtics should just slide Marcus Smart into the starting lineup at PG. We could also see Jeff Teague start in a more traditional role. Boston has a bit more depth at guard after drafting Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard. So between Teague, Smart and the two rookies, the Celtics should be fine.
Teague is intriguing on this team and as a sleeper. He played well in limited time for the Timberwolves but has spent most of the past two seasons on non-playoff teams. Teague is if nothing else a good distributor, and could provide decent assist totals on an efficient offensive team like the Celtics.
As for betting lines, the Celtics have a team win percentage O/U of 63.5, which would project them to win at least 45-46 games in a 72-game season. I don’t think this Walker injury early on sets them back too much but it’s worth monitoring throughout training camp. The Celtics are +1300 to win it all on DraftKings Sportsbook, though it’s tough envisioning this as a good bet with what the Lakers, Clippers, Bucks and other teams did to improve this offseason.
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