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Is Steven Adams’ Future Tied to Kemba Walker?

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The Adams trade chatter continues to percolate, and the Celtics may need him to entice Walker to leave the Hornets

Oklahoma City Thunder v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

In the days before free agency officially opens, nuggets of information continue to drop. Making sense of which are actually nutritional and which are the junkiest of junk food is difficult in today’s Social Media age.

Yet again, the subject of OKC’s Steven Adams is a topic of discussion. But this time, it’s in an indirect way.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported yesterday that the Boston Celtics are emerging as a “stealth suitor” for Charlotte Hornets star guard Kemba Walker.

The Celtics have been positioning themselves to have significant salary cap space headed into July 1. One way to spend that space could be to acquire Adams, a scenario explored on WTLC earlier this week. Doing that, however, would soak up all of Boston’s cap space and leave them unable to sign Walker. That path would likely require a trade involving either Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown, which could be too rich for Danny Ainge’s blood.

Andrew Doxy from CelticsBlog.com, a SBNation sister site, tweeted today that the futures of Adams and Walker could be tied together.

There’s another way for the Celtics to get both players, and it could help out OKC’s finances in the process.

First, Boston could open up the cap space needed to sign Walker. Once he’s signed, likely with a pre-arranged understanding of a trade for Adams, they could then make the trade and exceed the salary cap in the process. Even if a team drops under the salary cap, it can exceed the cap again once its room is spent.

In this example, a trade would likely involve swingman Gordon Hayward which could either excite or terrify Thunder fans.

Hayward, a former All-Star who is still coming back from a gruesome leg injury suffered five minutes into the 2017-18 season, is under contract for $32.7 million next season. He also has a player option for $34.1 million in 2020-21. That’s nearly $13.5 million more than Adams is owed over the next two seasons.

Such a deal could help transform OKC and add some badly needed shooting and playmaking, but it would also inflate the payroll. That could require the Celtics to take back the salaries of Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson, which would come close to swapping out equal total salary commitments on both sides.

Assuming Boston traded Hayward as an over-the-cap team, the Celtics could take back 125% of his salary plus $100,000 - nearly $41 million - in return. Tack on a small salary here or there and the workings of a deal could come together. Adding a third team is also possible in order to offload a contract or two.

Alternatively, the two teams could execute a trade before the Celtics signed Walker. That would likely limit the swap to just Adams and Patterson in exchange for Hayward, which would actually add some money to the Thunder’s payroll.

Could that combination of salary savings and perimeter play be enough to move OKC into action? We’re still miles away from this coming together, if it ever does, with all of these moving parts. It’s undoubtedly one of many scenarios each team is evaluating as we surge into the final days of the 2018-19 season.