The Knicks are seeking the Ben Simmons to Philly’s Joel Embiid to place next to Kristaps Porzingis over the next decade and as of right now there is only one player on the NBA trade market that makes sense – that being Hornets playmaker Kemba Walker. Charlotte has a new GM in Mitch Kupchak, who was brought in to get the Hornets out of the “middle of the road” rut they’ve been stuck in for the better part of this decade. The old NBA adage of “you can’t get good until you’ve been bad” definitely applies here for the Hornets, who could potentially get two lottery picks in a loaded draft if they find the right trade partner in the next two months.
Here is what the Associated Press had to say about Walker’s situation at the end of the regular season: “If Kupchak decides a massive rebuilding project is in order, Walker could be the first one out the door given he’s the team’s biggest bargaining chip and has a favorable contract.”
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor also thinks it’s a good bet Walker gets dealt this off-season.
“NBA executives expect Kemba’s name to be floating around the rumor mill again this summer,” O’Connor wrote. “There aren’t many teams that need a playmaker but now is the time to strike for the ones who do. Walker, who turns 28 in May, will make only $12 million in 2018-19, a manageable contract to trade for.”
The Knicks currently own the No. 9 pick in the draft and the Hornets own the No. 11 pick, but make no mistake – these are two franchises headed in opposite directions. With Porzingis, the Knicks are currently in the business of getting better. All indications are now that the Hornets are in the business of getting worse.
The Knicks would likely have to give up either Frank Ntilkina or Trey Burke in a deal for Walker, as well as their 2018 first round draft pick. In keeping one of the point guards, the Knicks would not be opposed to implementing a Rockets-like style with two traditional ball-handlers on the floor at the same time.
Many mock drafts have the Hornets currently eyeing point guard Collin Sexton, which could mean that Walker to the Knicks (or another NBA team in search of a top-level scorer) could indeed have some legs.
Walker is still just 27-years-old (he’ll turn 28 in May) and has proven himself to be a clutch player. He was phenomenal in the playoffs two years ago against Miami, and his impressive track record in the fourth quarter dates back to his days in college at UConn where he led the school to its third national championship.