Even though it stings to be paying your 6th man a max contract, I do like the idea of Kemba as that instant offense off the bench where he can give the 2nd unit a huge boost and save his knees by cutting his minutes from here on out. The Celts have a nice history of a starter-level player coming off the bench as a 6th man, a guy who is better than the starter he is subbing out - Havlicek in the 60's, Paul Silas in the 70's and McHale in the 80's.
Yes, I’m envisioning that may be where Kemba lands if the concerns over his knees are warranted. It becomes a lot more bearable if we somehow turn the TPE into a decent (but obviously will never be an all-star) starting guard like Hield, so we know we’ll have PP and Hield the next three years (perhaps beyond) alongside Kemba off the bench. We will probably not be able to trade Kemba, or at least for anything that offsets the negatives to trading Kemba such as how bad it looks spurning a popular player who signed with us just last year. That said, if his knees can handle ELITE-level play for 18-24 MPG as our sixth man, he’ll still be an extremely valuable player to us and continue to be one of the most respected and liked players in the game today (and probably a perennial 6thMOY).
At this point, all things considered, I would not even try to trade him the next three years unless the Rockets get desperate at this year’s deadline, and become willing to trade Harden for just Walker, Langford, Nesmith and protected first rounders (that’s still a gamble I would take this year, and if it fails I’d cut my losses and send Harden back to the west in the offseason—am guessing the Warriors and Trailblazers would be willing to part with valuable pieces, or perhaps the Nuggets would give up Jamal Murray for Harden and protected picks, but there is no way Houston will trade him to a western team).